The Short Life of Six Flags New Orleans

The above video by Teddy Smith has been making its way around the Internet these past two weeks. It presents a rather stark image of a relatively new amusement park emptied and abandoned: slow Live at Pompeii-style camera pans of rides twisting in the wind and unravelling flags flapping to shreds; graffiti; busted windows; fading paint. The most telling imagery comes whenever the viewer is presented with a view of any installation a few feet above ground level, where discoloration and staining can be seen. These are the telltale sign of flooding five years ago from Hurricane Katrina, for this is Six Flags New Orleans.


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The barricaded entrance to Six Flags New Orleans in Google Street View.The sign at the entrance still reads ‘CL SED FOR STORM’.

15444

US Federal Emeregency Management Agency photo of Six Flags New Orleans two weeks after Hurricane Katrina. The water was not drained from the park for an entire month after the hurricane. Source: B. McMillan, FEMA Photo Library, http://www.photolibrary.fema.gov/photolibrary/photo_details.do?id=15444.

Six Flags New Orleans (SFNO) has not only yet to reopen a half-decade later, but is supposedly scheduled to be disassembled early next year (although a SFNO fan site claims based on correspondence with City of New Orleans officials that this is not the case). The park itself, located on reclaimed swampland on the east side of the city, only operated for five years. Originally opened in 2000 as Jazzland, the ride-filled theme park soon caught the eye of industry giant Six Flags Entertainment Corp., who took over the park in 2002 and renamed it to Six Flags New Orleans. The park was to get even more roller coasters and a new water park, but it was not to be once Katrina came and flooded out the park.

SFNO was operated by Six Flags, but the land it sits on is owned by the City of New Orleans. The two sides became entangled in the battle over legal responsibility for cleaning up the site after the storm, which only exacerbated the problem as the park continued to decay while the two sides were in court. New Orleans wanted the site reopened as quickly as possible; Six Flags wanted to keep the park closed until it had reclaimed all outstanding damage costs incurred during the storm (US$175 million) from its insurers, as evidenced by this notice that constituted the entirety of SFNO’s website for over years before finally being pulled down in 2008. It also helped that the park was never a money-maker for the cash-strapped Six Flags; the park’s location at the edge of town is far removed from the both the tourist heart of the city or its main centres of population. In 2006, Six Flags even tried to give the city US$10 million and 66 acres of land adjacent to the park in exchange for walking away from its 75-year on the property. After Six Flags went bankrupt in 2009, the bankruptcy court allowed the company to terminate its lease with the city. A company called Southern Star Amusement aimed to take over the lease and reopen the site as a Nickelodeon-branded water and theme park in 2009, but Nickelodeon pulled out, financing never materialised, and nothing ever came from the announcement. The recreational sport complex firm Big League Dreams made a proposal to redevelop the site into one of their facilities in exchange for US$25 million from the city, but again nothing happened.

Unhappy Clown Head

Source: malamutechaos, http://www.flickr.com/photos/23222111@N05/4338006849/.

Main Street

Source: Liquorhead, http://www.flickr.com/photos/liquorhead/4110750235/

Below, another video tour of the park from October 2010, this time with a much cheerier soundtrack:

The month-long immersion in salt water destroyed 80% of the buildings and made all but the most elevated rides impossible to restore. Some of the rides have been salvaged and reinstalled at other Six Flags parksAs with other abandoned theme parks, urban exploration of the park has been rampant since its shuttering. Many of these explorers have posted extensive photo galleries of the park on the Internet; even Time magazine has posted a slideshow of the ruins. There’s an excellent photo gallery of SFNO from Flickr users ‘*brynne’ here and ‘malamutechaos’ here; the photos were taken last November and this February respectively and show a very stunning amalgam of preservation and decay in the park. The image of the theme park chain’s mascot, Mr. Six, greeting visitors to the park makes him seem even more morbid than usual:

It's Playtime!

Further Reading

Brynne Photography (2009). Abandoned Six Flags – New Orleans. Flickr, 13 November 2009. Available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/brynnephotography/sets/72157622688948209/. Accessed 7 November 2010.

Golden, M. (2010). The Surreal Remains of Six Flags New Orleans. Time, 27 August 2010. Available at http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2012608,00.html. Accesed 8 November 2010.

Malamutechaos (2010). Six Flags. Flickr, 7 February 2010. Available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/23222111@N05/sets/72157623380351060/. Accessed 7 November 2010.

Mowbray, R. (2006). Six Flags wants out, offers the city a deal. The Times-Picayune, 1 July 2006. Available at http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-6/1151735344140970.xml&coll;=1. Accessed 8 November 2010.

Southern Star Amusement (2009). Nickelodeon Enters Into Licensing Arrangement to Create a New Nick-Branded Water and Theme Park in New Orleans, Louisiana. Southern Star Amusement, 18 April 2009. Available at http://www.southernstaramusement.com/news_08_18_09.cfm. Accessed 8 November 2010.

Southern Star Amusement (2009). Southern Star Amusement continues fight for New Orleans theme park. Southern Star Amusement, 10 November 2009. Available at http://www.southernstaramusement.com/news_11_10_09.cfm. Accessed 8 November 2010.

Thompson, R. (2009). Firm renews interest in converting abandoned Six Flags theme park into eastern New Orleans sports complex. The Times-Picayune, 11 December 2009. Available at http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/12/firm_renews_interest_in_conver.html. Accessed 8 November 2010.

Wardriver, A. (2010). Uber Creepy Tour: Abandoned Six Flags New Orleans. WebUrbanist, 17 March 2010. Available at http://weburbanist.com/2010/03/17/uber-creepy-tour-abandoned-six-flags-new-orleans-69-pics/. Accessed 8 November 2010.

White, J. (2010). With recent development buzz evaporating, a dormant, storm-marred amusement park awaits the city’s next move. The Times-Picayune, 11 April 2010. Available at http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2010/04/with_recent_development_buzz_e.html. Accessed 8 November 2010.

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