As it prepares to open its first new roller coaster in a decade, Six Flags America has raised its seasonal hires by almost 90 from last year, bringing its total to 1,538 for its big summer season, which runs from late May through August.
The Largo theme park attributes much of the increase to its strong early spring break opening, as Maryland came off one of its warmest winters on record, said spokeswoman Havilah Ross.
Having temperatures as high as 70 degrees as early as February has boosted seasonal employment at other businesses around the state and buoyed their hopes for a stronger spring and summer than last year.
Golf courses particularly have benefited, as more people began teeing off in February.
Rattlewood Golf Course in Mount Airy usually waits until May before hiring more seasonal workers, as March and April can have such fickle weather, said shop manager Brandon Hosein. But this year, 50 hires, including two new positions, were brought on by the end of March, he said.
“We didn’t have much of a winter this year,” Hosein said. “We’re expecting a stronger season than last year. The weather has been helping out a great amount and we’ve been hitting our ideal numbers as far as rounds being played.”
Patuxent Greens Golf Club in Laurel also anticipates increasing its corps of 30 seasonal employees, depending on the weather, said golf professional Clarince Thomas.
He added that the additional hires coincide with reinvestment in the course and the earlier-than-usual start of the season.
“We think people are feeling better about the economy. The price of gas is going down and people are feeling better about discretionary spending,” Thomas said.
Other course managers, such as Steve Mills of Marlton Golf Club in Upper Marlboro, said it’s the weather, not any economic rebound, that’s helping the industry.
He said Marlton hired the same two dozen seasonal employees it usually does, even though business also has been going down.
Although the warm weather might mean more seasonal hires, the changing economy may have an impact on just who those hires are.
Ross said Six Flags has seen more seasonal job applicants 40 and older, with a couple hundred in the 20- to 40-year-old range. Six Flags’ seasonal employees usually are younger than 18, she said; this year, the park hired more than 800 people older than 18.
“It’s a great training ground for the young people to learn from the older generation,” Ross said. “It gives us the ability to have more maturity within the park.”
Ross said Six Flags officials hope the balmy weather plus the planned June 7 opening of its 100-foot stand-up roller coaster Apocalypse will draw coaster enthusiasts from near and far.
Six Flags already saw attendance at its annual Math, Science and Physics Days this month rise to 6,000 from 3,000 in 2011, Ross said. Students pay less than half the regular admission on these days.
Some landscaping companies also have increased their seasonal work forces this year.
Green Future Construction, Landscaping and Tree Specialists in Laurel hired six more seasonal workers than last year, said manager Valerie Wiest.
“Since there wasn’t any snow, people were requesting landscaping and construction projects,” Wiest said, adding that the company has grown and expanded its marketing.
Although Green Future typically slows down midsummer when people do less planting and mulching and head off on vacations, Wiest has high expectations for the season.
“We’ve already had some of our larger projects,” she said.
Ruppert Landscape in Laytonsville also has been hiring more, bringing its total employment, which includes operations in the Philadelphia and Atlanta region, to 670, said President Chris Davitt.
Ruppert’s growth didn’t stem from the earlier spring weather, as the company focuses on commercial work and those contracts are set in advance. Instead, he said, Ruppert may be growing as the economic downturn killed off some of its competitors.
Davitt said Ruppert’s 15 percent growth in the warmer months comes as its winter accounts dropped 15 percent.
He said the company began its seasonal hiring, which covers 10.5 months of the year and involves 150 employees, a few weeks earlier this year.
Fewer new pools, but more service
Gallagher Pools & Spas in Westminster started its seasonal hiring earlier than usual but with its customary 12 seasonal workers, said owner Randy Gallagher.
He said that while new pool construction has been down, the economy has helped Gallagher’s existing pool accounts, as more people stay home and use them. Gallagher handles about 5,000 service calls each year.
Businesses that offer seasonal tours also have been taking advantage of the “staycation” movement, with people saving money by having recreational activities closer to home rather than traveling.
Kate and Peter Vonderheide of Kayak Annapolis have hired their first two employees ever. They also have added sunset tours during the weekends to complement their 21 tours per week, each with up to 15 people.
“Our business is educational, healthy, green — all the things people are interested in right now,” Peter Vonderheide said.
Unfortunately, as kayaking depends more on water temperatures than air temperatures, Kayak Annapolis has not been able to gain much from the earlier spring, he said.
“So far, it’s looking good for the season, though,” Vonderheide said.
Terrapin Adventures in Savage offers numerous outdoor activities including zip lines, rope-climbing, geo-caching and mountain biking. The company hired five seasonal employees this year and is still hiring, said Matt Baker, chief adventure officer.
“The good weather got us off to a good start,” he said, adding that Terrapin entertained 19,000 people last year and has grown its attendance annually over the last four years.
Terrapin Adventures is adding full moon events this year and readying for its Murder Mystery event Saturday. Participants use the park’s activities to find clues and solve a mystery based on the Clue board game.
National Harbor, the $4 billion mixed-use resort in Oxon Hill, also is coming into its main tourist season on a high note, with most of its retail stores showing a year-over-year double-digit percentage sales increase for the first quarter, said spokeswoman Rocell Viniard. The development hired six seasonal employees this year, the same as last year.
The resort is launching new attractions this year, including Pops on the Potomac, which will feature the Chesapeake Orchestra starting June 16, with outdoor concerts through Aug. 25. Up to 4,000 people are expected at each concert, she said.