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Pandemic Brings Challenges for New Six Flags President

Trained in Architecture, Richard Pretlow Uses Design Theory to Get the Job Done

Richard Pretlow was recently named park president of Bowie, Md.-based Six Flags America theme park and Hurricane Harbor waterpark. Before coming to Prince George’s County, Pretlow served as director of in-park services at Six Flags Great Escape Resort in Lake George, N.Y. He joined Six Flags in 2018. Pretlow recently talked with The Washington Informer about the vision for the theme park in this region. Six Flags America in Bowie opened in 1982.

Q: What excites you about this appointment at Six Flags America?

Pretlow: Ever since I started in the theme park industry, it has been my goal to be a park president and to lead a park in a truly diverse and dynamic market. When this opportunity opened, it seemed like the right time and the right place.

Q: You have had an interesting trajectory in the theme park industry. What attracted you to this industry?

Pretlow: I was in my graduate semester finishing up a master’s in architecture at Hampton University. I did not want to go to a traditional architecture firm. I applied for a job at Busch Gardens in Virginia, worked in in culinary operations and it was fun. I went from Busch Gardens then to Busch Gardens’ sister park Sesame Place, then to the Crayola Experience in Minnesota. I continue to have a passion for design. I still use design theory and design thinking that I learned in the architecture program at Hampton. Architecture is a combination of art and science. You must solve a design problem. I have taken that into leadership, solving problems functionally but doing it beautifully.

Q: With the pandemic, businesses had to change how they operated. What has Six Flags America learned to change their theme park business approach?

Pretlow: Obviously, we must work through COVID first. We demonstrated in 2020 that we can provide a safe and terrific guest experience for everyone. We have a terrific staff, and we see a lot of growth over the next decade. Our trajectory at this park is limitless at this point.

Q: Six Flags America is opening earlier this year. Why the earlier opening?

Pretlow: Yes, Six Flags is opening for its 22nd season on March 6, 2021. It will be our longest season, ever. The park will start on March 6 with opening on weekends, then every day during spring break, then back to a weekend schedule. In June, the park will have its full open schedule. We know there is a lot of pent-up demand for the experience.

Q: What health precautions will be put in place for Six Flags America staff and patrons?

Pretlow: We are continuing with all the safety measures that were implemented last year. Patrons will need to make reservations before coming to Six Flags America. We require masks and thermal scanning upon entry. There also will be hand washing and sanitizer stations throughout the park. We are also following CDC and state guidelines on park capacity. Our staff follows the same safety standards that are required of park patrons.

Q: Are there any new attractions at Six Flags America?

Pretlow: We will introduce “Harley Quinn Spinsanity,” an oversized giant pendulum ride named after the iconic DC Comics Super Villain Harley Quinn. This is the tallest pendulum ride in the area. It will hold 40 riders and be powered 15 stories in the air at speeds of 70 miles per hour. “Harley Quinn Spinsanity” is in the Gotham City area of the park with Superman, Batman, and all of our DC-themed rides and attractions.

Q: Six Flags America was a site for COVID-19 testing and is now a site for mass COVID-19 vaccinations. What went into the decision to set up for these tasks?

Pretlow: It is important for us to be a good corporate citizen in P.G. County. We are serving as a mass site for COVID-19 vaccinations through a partnership between the Maryland Department of Health, the Maryland National Guard, and Kaiser Permanente. The vaccination process is set up in one of our auxiliary parking lots with a separate entrance. There will be no disruption to what the health department will do. We still have plenty of space for all who want to patronize the park.

Q: What is your vision for Six Flags America during a challenging time that will continue for a while?

Pretlow: We are in a new decade. We have an opportunity to be the preferred entertainment destination in the DMV area. We will always coexist with our competitors. But my vision is that Six Flags America is that venue where we have the thrills for the teens, and we have family rides for those with small children. We are able to accommodate any and all needs where folks can come and have a great time.

Access the Six Flags America and Hurricane Harbor schedule at https://www.sixflags.com/america.

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