Summer is on the way, and it will soon be peak season for theme parks and water slides. Some may be looking to go beyond buying a season pass and investing in these fun spots itself. The recession has been rough on theme parks. Travel is down, and so are receipts at the gate. Rising gas prices could have a less-than-thrilling impact on those smaller, rural family-run parks that lie outside most tourist destinations -- the gator worlds and Christmas-themed petting zoos of the world. If you want to buy one, do some research. Seek out local newspapers online, refining your search to uncover stories about struggling parks, foreclosures or decisions to sell. Keep your focus as local as possible so you understand the market potential. You'll undoubtedly come across online sites and listings looking to sell equity shares in Russian and Eastern European amusement park startups and franchises. Even if they are legitimate, the price is high and prospects risky. Don't assume only big parks are out there. The marketplace includes smaller, indoor locations in malls and at strip malls. They may be little more than arcades, but the right one could prove a potential opportunity. To find opportunities, keep up with the trade publications and such professional organizations as the International Association of Amusement Parks. Among the listings we came across in our search was an amusement park for sale in Nebraska. Established in 1980, it includes go karts, water slides and miniature golf. Total assets include $24,000 of inventory, $821,000 of equipment, vehicles, fixtures and furnishings, and buildings and land valued at $500,000. The asking price is $1.1 million. We also found a 15-acre dinosaur theme park in Michigan that once featured a train ride, fake volcano and 35-foot waterfall. Included in the $548,000 asking price: an arcade, gift shop and 100 fiberglass dinosaurs. On a far larger scale, earlier this month it was reported that NBC Universal -- or more accurately Comcast ( CMCSK -- may need to shell out upward of $1.6 billion to buy the 50% stake in Universal Studios Florida theme parks private investment firm Blackstone Group ( BX is seeking to sell by a June deadline. Failing to do so would open the door for private equity investors.
Naked women, check. Beer, check. Cheesy DJs playing Motley Crue. Check. If the above define your idea of either a good time or a great investment, consider buying a strip club. To be sure, there are not many mom and pop strip clubs left these days. Many are owned by chains with recognizable brand names. Be prepared for a fight, though. Cities and towns typically want no part of these establishments and can be counted on the use zoning restrictions and their power over liquor licenses to keep you from raising your shingle. Be prepared for the added cost of lawyers to get the deal done. Buying a club may take being a partnership One online site offering advice to would be stripperpreneurs is not to fall into the trap of thinking of this as a real estate transaction, not a business deal. Among the questions to ask: Are accounts receivable included in the sale? Are there liabilities on the books? Is the liquor license transferable?
From an investment standpoint, golf courses are a much different beast than traditional real estate. Houses, apartments and commercial real estate can, of course, fluctuate in price and occupancy. Golf courses have the added challenges of greater maintenance needs and rely on revenue streams less quantifiable than a monthly rent check. Unseasonably rainy weather? Your ROI takes a hit. The economy has also been unkind to the industry. Industry statistics show fewer people playing fewer rounds, a byproduct of recession-era belt tightening and the ongoing need to attract younger aficionados. The courses, clubs and surrounding land are not always bought by one deep-pocketed entrepreneur. Many are sold to partnerships and private companies. Financing is often by such specialists as Textron Financial, and other Wall Street investment houses are increasingly among the players -- in both senses of the word. What's out there to buy? CB Richard Ellis' Golf & Resort Group has brokered $750 million golf course deals over the years, including master-planned golf communities and golf resorts, private country clubs, daily-fee golf courses and raw acreage for development. Among the available properties it represents:
- With an asking price of $4 million, the Cathedral Canyon Golf & Tennis Club in California's Coachella Valley, between Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, the deal includes the long-term leasehold for the golf course as well as 10,000-square-foot clubhouse, maintenance and practice facilities and 10 hard-surface tennis courts.
- San Diego's Mt. Woodson Golf Club, with an asking price of $4.8 million, is along the base of a 2,884-foot mountain peak. The course was designed to take advantage of "unique elevation changes, numerous rock outcroppings and mature oak trees."
- Black Bull, "an award-winning, master-planned mountain golf community," is a 483-acre development planned for 378 custom and developer-built club homes. Trustees of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court directed CB Richard Ellis to solicit overbids to the $8.1 million "stalking horse offer" (a selling price reached by testing the market at auction).
You won't find a Sunday morning open house at the typical funeral home. In keeping with the overall atmosphere of these establishments, offerings will surely be a bit more discreet. The reality, however, is that there is brisk business in the buying and selling of mortuaries, funeral homes, crematories and even cemeteries. Unlike churches, which are increasingly being bought for condo conversions, most funeral home sales are business deals. Once again, reading trade publications, magazines and contacting trade organizations will help find leads. There are also specialized brokers, such as New York-based American Funeral Consultants, that specialize in funeral home transactions. Among the services brokers can offer is crafting an Earnings Before Interest, Depreciation and Taxes Report to value the business and negotiate a price.
Love trains and railroad stations? With old-school rail service a thing of the past in many communities, these terminals and station houses do occasionally find their way into the open market. Research can help find one, or at least reach out to the network of like-minded aficionados. Sites such as the Railroad Station Historical Society can be a starting point. Local real estate agents may be able to help. Because many stations have been out of service for years, they have already been repurposed by restaurants, coffee shops, galleries and hardware stores. Added expense may be needed to restore some of the historical flourishes, but the sites themselves are not all that rare, and many are listed through traditional brokers. On a larger scale, sites including the shuttered Michigan Central Depot, designed by the same architects as New York City's Grand Central Terminal, are available for private development. The Detroit station, spared from a wrecking ball, may soon undergo renovations. As for turning a railroad station into a living space, the cable channel GHTV recently featured a one-time depot in Vermont that has since been listed with an area broker for $199,000. -- Written by Joe Mont in Boston. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Joe Mont. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/josephmont. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.