You want to do it up right at Kennywood and that includes a trip to the Potato Patch for some of the park’s signature fries — but you can leave your money in your wallet. Starting Tuesday, June 28, Kennywood is going cashless.

“We looked at ways to improve our process and make it more efficient, and it’s been shown through studies that cash transactions will take a little bit longer than credit transactions or something like Apple Pay. That can add up over the course of a day,” says Nick Paradise, director of communications for Palace Entertainment, the parent company of Kennywood and its sister parks, Sandcastle and Idlewild & SoakZone.

In addition to credit, debit and prepaid cards, the parks will accept Apple Pay and Google Pay and secure mobile payments. Sandcastle will start the new system the same day as Kennywood, and Idlewild & SoakZone will start on Wednesday, June 29.

Paradise says that without large amounts of cash on hand the park doesn’t need staff trained to handle money and can “transition team members to work at food stands or in retail or ride operation.” That can mean a lot over the course of the summer when even the smallest park, Sandcastle, employs more than 300 people. “It’s competitive to find those workers,” Paradise says.

Although using cash has grown less popular in general, there are people who still prefer to carry cash or don’t have access to a credit card. Cash-to-card kiosks will be located throughout each park to convert money onto a prepaid Visa or MasterCard. The kiosks don’t charge a fee if the card is used within 90 days. It can hold up to $500.

The prepaid cards can be used anywhere those cards are accepted, Paradise says. At the parks, patrons can use the cards to buy admission tickets or make purchases at any food or retail outlet. The cards can’t be reloaded and a receipt is needed in case you lose the card.

“If you lose it, you can report it and they can freeze the card,” Paradise says.

Palace Entertainment has launched the system in at least six of its 25 U.S. parks and the process has been working smoothly, Paradise says. “There are some people who don’t want to change the way things have been, but ultimately it has gone quite well.”

Photo courtesy of Sandcastle.

Palace Entertainment doesn’t release attendance figures, but in a year’s time, an estimated 1 million people visit Kennywood, the company’s largest theme park. Kennywood is open daily until the end of August when it will operate on weekends only. Even when the summer season ends, the park will open for Phantom Fall Fest in October, and the holiday light show from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day.

“We have progressively extended the season to offer more, and it’s been very well received,” says Paradise.

From July 1-4, the Celebrate America series returns with nightly fireworks, the Wiener 100 dachshund races and other performances.

Sandra Tolliver

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.