'It felt rough': Fights and unruly guests prompt early closing of Kings Island Saturday

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Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, closed about 30 minutes early Saturday due to several fights inside the park and out in the parking lot, according to authorities and park officials.

Troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol say there were several fights in the afternoon and then one large fight happened just before 10 p.m.

A sergeant from the highway patrol said the Mason Police Department asked for backup to respond to several large fights at Kings Island and troopers responded.

Mason police said in a release on Sunday officers responded to several reports of "unruly guests" at Kings Island. The reports came from both inside the park and in the parking lot and were mostly over juveniles and no arrests were made.

The park's opening weekend was May 15.

Milford, Ohio, resident Ryan Smith, who has had seasons passes at Kings Island for several years, took his family to the amusement park for the first time this season on Saturday.

"It was insanely crowded," he said. "Not surprising, I guess, as it was a Saturday and the weather was nice."

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He said while rides were fully staffed, food stands, restaurants and gift shops were not. "Not all of them were open," he said. "And there were 30-45 minutes lines at the ones that were."

It is unclear how many people were involved in the fights or how they started.

Smith said the atmosphere at the park on Saturday was concerning, with large groups of older teens or young adults shouting, pushing, and being aggressive. "There were a lot of F-bombs," he said. "It felt rough."

He took his 8-year-old son into an arcade but didn't feel comfortable letting him play there alone while he stood in line to get a drink. His 12-year-old and a friend were riding rides.

Smith said he thought the park was understaffed.

"At the metal detectors, there was one guy watching four of them," he said.

He added there needed to be more people working in the food stands and more employees on the concourse. He said he never saw security people after entering the park.

Smith and his family left after about five hours.

"We couldn't get a drink in the park and decided to leave and get something at the gas station," he said. "I was hoping this would be the year we could let our 12-year-old go to the park with friends. I don't know that I am comfortable with that now."

The Cincinnati Enquirer, part of the USA TODAY Network, asked Kings Island if there are staffing issues at the park and is waiting for a response. On Saturday, Kings Island announced it was raising its hourly wage to $15 for part-time and seasonal jobs. The pay raise is for all 2021 seasonal and part-time positions ages 16 and older, the Mason, Ohio-based amusement park said in a Facebook post on Saturday. "As we're seeing across a wide range of industries, the availability of labor continues to be a challenge," the post reads.

Kings Island released a statement about the early closure:

"The safety of our guests and associates is always our top priority. On Saturday, the decision was made to close the park 30 minutes early due to unruly behavior and altercations involving a number of teenagers. This behavior did not align with our park's values, and was not the experience we want any guest to have while visiting Kings Island."

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Kings Island fights, unruly guests prompt early closing Saturday