Six Flags New Orleans (SFNO) is a 140-acre, abandoned theme park in New Orleans, Louisiana that has been closed since Hurricane Katrina struck the state in August 2005. It is owned by the Industrial Development Board (IDB) of New Orleans.
Six Flags had owned the park since March 2002, but after assessing the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and the related exorbitant expenses of repairing the damage, sought to terminate its 75-year lease with the city, beginning in July 2006. The city agreed in September 2009.
The park is located in New Orleans East, off Interstate 10.
Despite various announced plans to redevelop the site (as of May 2017), it is still an abandoned amusement park in extremely poor condition. The site is owned and maintained by IDB. The site has 24-hour security and trespassers are prosecuted.
Videos and photos of the site have surfaced over the years from thrill-seekers. This encouraged city officials to become more diligent in its approach to secure and ban tours of the park.
The park is no longer operational and safety is a concern. Trespassing is prohibited and the property is only visible from the highway. The New Orleans Police Department officers can be seen patrolling the park daily to prevent trespassing.
Functioning amusement park: 2000–05Edit
Original Jazzland (2000–02)Edit
The park opened under the name Jazzland in 2000. It was operated by Alfa Smartparks (later Odgen Entertainment and now known as Palace Entertainment), but was owned by a Spanish company called Parques Reunidos.
Rides included Mega Zeph, a wooden roller coaster track built on a steel frame to prevent termite infestation and withstand hurricane-force winds. Mega Zeph was inspired by the old Zephyr roller coaster at the closed Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park that was located next to Lake Pontchartrain by the University of New Orleans.
The intent was to rebuild the Zephyr, but it was a smaller roller coaster, so that idea was scrapped in favor of the current larger Mega Zeph.
Other rides included a junior steel coaster called Rex's Rail Runner, a wild mouse steel coaster and a common steel shuttle looping Vekoma boomerang rollercoaster called a Zydeco Scream (there are well over a dozen of these identical coasters in parks in the US).
The park had a log flume and a splashwater falls ride called Spillway Splashout. In addition, it had common amusement park spinning rides and a carousel merry-go-round. The park was not profitable, as Alpha Smart Parks specialized in running water parks and smaller amusement arcade centers.
In 2001, the lease was put up for sale, and in March 2002, Six Flags purchased the lease, although the park's name did not change that year.
Six Flags New Orleans (2003–2005)Edit
In early 2003, Six Flags upgraded the park and renamed it "Six Flags New Orleans." Six Flags added more shaded areas and many new flat spinning rides.
The park was renamed Six Flags, and the "it's playtime!" theme was adopted that included a dancing old man, Mr. Six.
They added a B&M inverted coaster named Batman: The Ride (a mirrored version of the B&M Batman: The Ride coaster model) relocated from the defunct Thrill Valley in Japan, and a Vekoma multiple looping coaster called The Jester relocated from Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
A water park that would be included in the admission (like Six Flags Parks such as Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags America, for example) was in the planning stages in early 2005 and was going to be announced at the end of August.
However, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, which put those plans and the continued operations of the park in question. The last day the park operated was August 21, 2005.
Weekday operations had ended a couple weeks earlier, as schools start early in August in the New Orleans area and end in mid-May. The park was scheduled to open August 27 and August 28, as usual, but once Katrina was forecast late on Friday, August 26 to directly hit New Orleans, the weekend opening was canceled in order to prepare for the storm and begin evacuations.
Park's Future (2014-present)Edit
In 2014, the city issued an RFP for redeveloping the property. The Jazzland proposal was submitted and has been under review ever since.
The area is supposed to have a few sections about Louisiana, including the Quarter, Sportsman's Paradise, Beach, Bayou and a concert area. Rides will include a wild mouse, a renovated Jester, a new and renovated Mega Zeph, new bumper cars, and maybe a new pirate ship. Also the sky coaster supports will be used as shade cover supports for the showboat show.
A new dark ride will go in the Beach section. It will be based on the haunted house at the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park that operated from 1923 to 1983. The concert area will be where the DC area had been. The company made a purchase offer to buy the property.
The board recently voted to turn over the decision to the Mayor's office. The company will continue to negotiate the site purchase with the mayor. The company bringing the park back said it could reopen in 2019 and it will look like a new park.
Along with an amusement park, a water park, resort hotel and shops are planned to be built near the theme parks area. The water park will be named Baritone Beach. The resort will be named Sportmans Paradise Resort and the shopping area will be renamed the Backlot Shops.
- Main Street Square
- Cajun Country
- Pontchartrain Beach
- DC Comics Super Hero Adventures
- Looney Tunes Adventures (Formerly Kids Carnival)
- Mardi Gras
- Good Time Gardens
Standing but not operating rides and attractionsEdit
'Main Street Square'
- Zydeco Zinger (Fabbri Wave Swinger)
- Muskrat Scrambler (L&T Systems Wild Mouse)
- Lafitte's Pirate Ship (Fabbri Pirate Ship)
- Ozarka Splash (Hopkins Rides log flume)
- Gator Bait (Huss Airboat)
- SpongeBob SquarePants The Ride (SimEx-Iwerks motion simulator)
DC Comics Super Hero Adventures
- Catwoman's Whip (Mondial Shake)
- Joker's Jukebox (Wieland Schwarzkopf Polyp)
- Lex Luthor's Invertatron (Zamperla Windshear)
- Beach Bang-Up (Reverchon Bumper Cars)
- The Big Easy (Vekoma Ferris Wheel)
- Zydeco Scream (Vekoma Boomerang)
- Dizzy Lizzy (Fabbri Boomerang)
- The Jester (Vekoma Hurricane)
- Mega Zeph (Custom Coasters International Double Out and Back wooden hybrid)
- Krazy Krewe (Fabbri Cataclysm)
- Mad Rex (Chance Morgan Wipeout)
- Jocco's Mardi Gras Madness (Sally Corporation interactive dark ride)
- Spillway Splashout (Hopkins Rides Shoot the Chutes)
- Skycoaster (Skycoaster Inc. Reverse freefall swing)
- Mardi Gras Menagerie (Chance Morgan Carousel)
Looney Tunes Adventures
- Pepe Le Pew & The Swings de Paris (children's swing ride)
- Daffy Duck and the Backlot Tour Bus (Zamperla Crazy Bus)
- Tazmanian Devil Rumble in the Jungle
- Yosemite Sam and the Wild West Wheel (Zamperla Ferris Wheel)
- Tweety's Tweehouse (Zamperla Jumpin' Star)
- Technocolor Tweety Balloons (Zamperla Samba Tower)
- Pirates 4-D - The theater ended this film in 2003 in favor of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Ride.
DC Comics Super Hero Adventures
- Batman: The Ride (Bolliger & Mabillard steel inverted) - Dismantled in 2007 and relocated to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, refurbished, and renamed as Goliath. It was reopened on April 18, 2008.
- Pontchartrain Flyers (Chance-Morgan Aviator) - Removed for spare parts.
Looney Tunes Adventures
- Road Runner Express (Vekoma Junior Coaster 207M) - Removed by Six Flags in 2009 and was moved to Six Flags Magic Mountain in California and refurbished there. The ride is still called Road Runner Express and it reopened on May 28, 2011.
- Bayou Blaster and Sonic Slam (S&S Worldwide Space Shot and Turbo Drop); Bayou Blaster started at the bottom and shot riders to the top, while the Sonic Slam lifted riders to the top slowly, then dropped riders free-fall style to the bottom. The ride was removed in 2008 and taken to Great Escape in Lake George, New York where it was refurbished and installed as Sasquatch. The ride reopened on May 10, 2009.
- King Chaos (Chance Morgan Chaos) - Removed earlier in 2005 and seen in the boneyard.
Voodoo Volcano (Chance Morgan Inverter) - Removed earlier in 2005 and seen in the boneyard.
After Hurricane KatrinaEdit
The park grounds are located on a low-lying section of Eastern New Orleans, with a 6-foot (1.8 m) earthen flood berm running along the perimeter, creating an artificial basin. As such, this area was badly flooded in August 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
After the park's drainage pumps failed during the storm, the berm retained the combination of rainwater and sea water overflow from Lake Pontchartrain caused by Katrina's massive storm surge, submerging the entire park grounds in corrosive brackish floodwater to a depth of 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 m) for over a month. Due to the extensive water and wind damage received, the park was closed indefinitely with no plans to reopen.
Initial damage reports by Six Flags inspectors stated that the park buildings were 80% demolished, all of the flat rides (except for one which was being serviced off-site at the time of the storm) were effectively destroyed by long term salt-water immersion and both the wooden track and steel superstructure of the Mega Zeph were likely damaged beyond repair.
The only large ride to escape relatively unscathed was the Batman: The Ride roller-coaster, due to its elevated station platform and corrosion-resistant support structure.
On July 1, 2006, having announced that the park would be closed "at least" through 2007, Six Flags announced that it had concluded its damage assessments and declared the park to be an "effective total loss"—with no desire or intent by the company to undertake the prohibitive cost of rebuilding—and was in negotiations with the City of New Orleans to make an early exit from the 75-year lease which Six Flags entered into on the property in 2002. However, then-Mayor Ray Nagin said he planned to hold Six Flags to the lease agreement and force them to rebuild.
If held to the terms of the lease agreement, Six Flags would have been legally obligated to rebuild the park on the same site, but only to the extent of the insurance money Six Flags received. Six Flags determined the value of assets destroyed by the storm at $32.5 million.
As of September 2006, Six Flags had collected $11.5 million of insurance proceeds, bringing the insurance receivable balance to $24.4 million. In January 2007, Six Flags officials revealed to the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the company was suing its insurers for the remaining $175 million in coverage.
The park had been one of the least profitable parks in the Six Flags portfolio, being well away from the French Quarter and other tourist attractions. It has been stated that the park would most likely have been more profitable had it been built somewhere on the West Bank or in Metairie, as these places are a shorter distance from tourist districts.
These potential locations would have placed the park much closer to affluent population centers where a strong local base of repeat customers could be cultivated as opposed to the poverty and crime-afflicted Eastern New Orleans district where few residents could afford or were interested in expensive season passes to the theme park.
On December 15, 2006, Six Flags confirmed that it was removing Batman: The Ride for refurbishment and relocation to a new park, as it was considered to be the only salvageable ride. Batman: The Ride was reassembled at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio and opened under the new name Goliath on April 18, 2008.
In addition to Batman: The Ride, Six Flags removed shade coverings, ride parts, lights, security cameras, planting structures and various other salvageable items.
Besides Batman: The Ride, other rides were later removed from the park. Bayou Blaster and Sonic Slam were removed in 2008 and taken to Great Escape in Queensbury, New York, where the ride was refurbished and reopened under the name Sasquatch on May 10, 2009.
The Road Runner Express was removed in 2009 and taken to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, where it was refurbished and reopened on May 28, 2011 under the same name.
As late as the fall of 2009, the Six Flags website said the company was "still in the process of settling claims with its insurers due to substantial damage caused by Hurricane Katrina," adding that the park would remain closed.
The statement ended with "We know that it is still a difficult time for the residents of New Orleans and we remain committed to working with the city in support of the recovery efforts."
Southern Star Amusement (2008–11)Edit
In April 2008, Southern Star Amusement Inc. proposed to take over the site lease from the then-owner Six Flags, promising to expand the park to over 60 rides (more than double its pre-Katrina size), complete a water park that Six Flags had been planning, and add an RV park.
Southern Star Amusement Inc. pledged to open the park as Legend City Adventure Park, with 60 rides in place, including a new water park by the summer of 2009 if the city approved the lease takeover, with the campground to follow.
One issue concerning rebuilding was Six Flags' continued removal of infrastructure from the park. In a quarterly conference call Six Flags discussed plans to remove the S&S Towers by 2009 with more ride removals to follow.
Items from existing Jazzland rides, such as Mega Zeph's trains and Spillway Splashout's boats, were sent to other parks. On September 27, 2008, Southern Star stated on its website that it would no longer be trying to revive Six Flags New Orleans.
In February 2009, Southern Star was taking another look at the park and considering a takeover bid with the City of New Orleans. Southern Star planned a scaled down effort, with intentions only to reopen the park with a water park added within the existing midway area. The idea was to reopen and build incrementally, saving about $50 million in improvements for the next few years.
Given the poor economic situation at the time, this plan seemed to be the only way that the park could be saved. The basic idea was to use investors and Go Zone Bonds to raise the $35 to $40 million needed to just reopen the park with basic improvements that are needed to make a real recovery and profit.
Southern Star's CEO Danny R. Rogers asked that Six Flags stop all removal action of equipment from the park, as the equipment in question belongs to the City of New Orleans and not Six Flags. The return of other equipment taken from the park by Six Flags was also requested.
On August 18, 2009, it was announced that the land would be redeveloped into a Nickelodeon-branded theme/water park.
On September 18, 2009, the city of New Orleans fined Six Flags $3 million and ordered the park to vacate its lease. (On June 13, 2009, the Six Flags had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.)
As of early 2010, the site was overgrown with debris and weeds. Removal of the debris and underbrush had begun.
As of April 11, 2010, the site was still shut down with no clear future, since the city of New Orleans owned the property by this time and the plans for the Nickelodeon-branded theme park fell through three months after bonds failed to come through.
On January 21, 2011, Southern Star went public with its third redevelopment plans for the park, posting a link on their company website.
On January 26, 2011, Southern Star posted a Letter of Intent for the park on its website. The redevelopment plans gave a brief history of the property, pre and post-Katrina condition photos, development concept photos, written descriptions of each phase of the redevelopment procedure and business projections for when it opens.
During "Phase I", Southern Star planned to restore what is left of the park, and expand it by adding more rides and reverting the park back to its original Louisiana theme. The park would be revamped to reflect Louisiana's history and heritage, with one of the proposed sections paying tribute to the now defunct Pontchartrain Beach, which closed in 1983.
"Phase II" entailed adding a water park and future expansion phases included adding a youth sports complex, an on-site hotel/resort and a movie studio/backlot that would cater to the needs of various production companies filming in the New Orleans area. Plans also included developing an entertainment and shopping district within the park.
These plans entailed utilizing all 224 acres (91 ha) of the site of which only 100 acres (40 ha) were to be developed and occupied by the remains of the Six Flags New Orleans park.
The Letter of Intent from Southern Star set out a lease agreement between the city and the company stating Southern Star's proposed terms of the lease and its intent for utilizing and restoring the area.
The company would enter a 75-year lease and take on the property in its current condition. Southern Star planned to take possession of the property prior to the establishment of the lease in order to provide preliminary security and repair/cleanup services.
The lease would not have taken effect until Southern Star had taken possession of the property, started the cleanup process and provided proof of funding to the city.
After that, the city had 15 days to execute its end of the agreement. Any and all improvements made would belong to the company and the lease would end in the year 2018.
Jazzland Outlet Mall (2011–14)Edit
In August 2011, the city of New Orleans called for proposals for redevelopment ideas for the site. Eight entrepreneurs stepped forward to suggest turning the property into a power plant, a theme park, or even an outlet mall.
On November 29, 2011, the city of New Orleans chose two of the proposed projects: an outlet mall and a green theme park.
On February 6, 2012, it was reported that the selection committee rejected the plan for the site of Six Flags New Orleans to become a theme park, leaving the upscale outlet mall as the only proposal being considered by the committee.
Despite the committee's actions, one of the original eight entrepreneurs continued to try to get public support for their Jazzland Park proposal, which includes the addition of a water park and movie studio back lot.
On March 6, 2012, the city of New Orleans gave the green light to build Jazzland Outlet Mall to Provident Reality Advisors and DAG Development.
The proposal was for a 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2) upscale outlet mall and entertainment boardwalk on the former theme park site, costing $40 million for part of Phase One and using some of the existing rides from the theme park.
Construction would have taken between three and four years to build. During the planned period of due diligence and pre-construction, in March 2013 the development plans were abruptly called off. The developer cited competition from the planned expansion of Riverwalk Marketplace to include an outlet mall, making the Jazzland Outlet Mall concept unviable.
However, as of the summer of 2013, Provident Reality Advisors and DAG Development has been back at the negotiating table with the city to come up with a new idea for the park; they will have to present a development plan to the Industrial Development Board (IDB) in October 2013, according to a contract.
Once presented IDB will then accept or reject the proposal. The contract also states that construction of an outlet mall is to proceed, but it does not explicitly prohibit giving the developers an opportunity to put something else there.
Use as film shoot location (2011–present)Edit
In 2011, Killer Joe was filmed in the park featuring the wooden coaster Mega Zeph. Stolen was also filmed at the park that year. Stolen used the Main Street Square section to double as the Quarter.
Additionally, a burning car was driven into the lagoon and the Orpheum Theatre was used as the home of the film's villain.
The Industrial Development Board (IDB) agreed to let 20th Century Fox film the 2013 film "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" in the theme park during the summer of 2012 through August.
Mega Zeph, Ozarka Splash and The Big Easy are three rides that have been shot for the film along with five other rides that the production crew had brought into the park, since all the original rides were rendered inoperable to shoot for the film.
Before shooting at the park for five weeks, the production crew took two weeks to restore the derelict park into the needed condition by installing lighting and covering up graffiti on the buildings.
The park portrays the fictional Circeland on the island of Polyphemus that was built by the goddess Circe, only to be destroyed by the cyclops Polyphemus.
During the summer of 2013, portions of the park were being filmed for the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes until mid-August. The park was also used to film portions of the movie Jurassic World in June 2014.
Jurassic World used the parking lot as the location for the Jurassic World park. Deepwater Horizon built its oil rig set in the parking lot. Deepwater Horizon was the last film to use the parking lot. No movie studio has signed up to use the park for filming since August 2015.
In 2016, the video game Mafia III, is set in a fictional version of New Orleans. The abandoned amusement park in that game features a partially flooded site, a similar entrance way, and a roller-coaster which strongly resembles the Mega Zeph.
Jazzland Paidia Company (2011–present)Edit
In 2011, the Paidia Company made a competing proposal to re-open the park as Jazzland, the park's name until 2002.
The company was not selected during the first RFP. A second RFP was issued in January 2014. Jazzland had the only proposal submitted. The plans include newly designed themes for the park, a water park, resort hotel and mixed-use retail/dining/entertainment area.
A few rides would be rebuilt, but most would be new. "Sportsman's Paradise" would include the existing Jester coaster, the "Beach" would include Megazeph.
Ozarka Splash would be rebuilt as a "sugar flume", using the state's sugar cane industry for its theme. Zydeco Scream was salvageable, but it would have to be removed to make room for other plans.
The Muskrat Scrambler coaster sustained too much damage from Hurricane Katrina and would have been removed. The company is currently negotiating with the mayor's office to purchase the property.