Transforming Disaster into Hope: Six Flags New Orleans, LA’s New Chapter

The Birth of Six Flags New Orleans as Jazzland

In 2000, the vibrant city of New Orleans welcomed a new addition to its entertainment tapestry: Jazzland, a theme park filled with excitement and promise.

The creation of this thrilling space was the culmination of a decade-long effort by Tom and Dian Winingder, who worked tirelessly to establish the partnerships needed to bring their vision to life.

The park, situated near the intersection of Interstate 10 and Interstate 510, was built on a 4-foot-thick concrete deck and featured themed areas such as Mardi Gras, Jazz Plaza, Cajun Country, Pontchartrain Beach, Kids’ Carnival, and The Goodtime Gardens.

Visitors flocked to experience the adrenaline-pumping rides, including the Mega Zeph, a wooden roller coaster inspired by the iconic Zephyr from the closed Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park.

Enter Six Flags New Orleans

Despite the park’s initial success, the operators, Alfa SmartParks, struggled with profitability. As a result, in 2002, Six Flags acquired the lease and invested $20 million to transform the park.

Rebranded as Six Flags New Orleans in 2003, the park saw numerous upgrades and the addition of exciting new attractions.

Among these was the highly anticipated Batman: The Ride, a Bolliger & Mabillard inverted coaster that captured the hearts of thrill-seekers.

Six Flags New Orleans was poised for success with its new name and revamped attractions. The park had ambitious plans for expansion, including adding a water park to entice visitors further. But fate had other plans.

The Wrath of Hurricane Katrina

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans with devastating force, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

The powerful storm caused unprecedented flooding in the city, and Six Flags New Orleans was not spared.

The park’s drainage system was overwhelmed, and the entire area was submerged in corrosive, brackish floodwater for over a month.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, the park was deemed an “effective total loss” by Six Flags.

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With the prohibitively high rebuilding cost and the park struggling with profitability, the decision was made to permanently close Six Flags New Orleans.

Salvaging Memories

Following the closure, Six Flags worked to salvage what they could from the park.

Batman: The Ride, one of the few attractions to escape the flood relatively unscathed, was dismantled and relocated to Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, where it was rebranded as Goliath.

Other rides, such as Bayou Blaster and Sonic Slam, found new homes at different Six Flags parks across the country.

An Abandoned Relic

Today, Six Flags New Orleans is a haunting reminder of the park’s once-thriving existence.

The site remains abandoned and in poor condition, with failed proposals to redevelop the area and the lingering challenge of securing the park against trespassers.

In a bittersweet twist, New Orleans has found a way to generate revenue from the property, leasing it out to various production companies as a unique filming location.

This has given the park a new lease on life, even if only as a backdrop for fictional stories.

As we reflect on the history of Six Flags New Orleans, it’s impossible not to feel a pang of nostalgia for the park’s vibrant past.

Though the park may never again welcome crowds of excited visitors, the memories of its heyday will live on in the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to experience it.

Redevelopment Proposals Over the Years

Southern Star Amusement (2008–2011)

Southern Star Amusement proposed to take over the site lease in 2008, pledging to expand the park to over 60 rides, complete a water park, and add an RV park.

However, the company faced multiple setbacks, and by 2011, their plans never came to fruition.

Jazzland Outlet Mall (2011–2014)

In 2011, New Orleans called for redevelopment proposals, ultimately choosing an outlet mall and a green theme park.

In 2012, Provident Realty Advisors and DAG Development received approval to construct the Jazzland Outlet Mall.

However, in 2013, the development plans were called off due to competition from the planned expansion of Riverwalk Marketplace.

Utilized for Film and Video Productions (2011–present)

Since 2011, the deserted park has sporadically been a shooting venue for films and music videos.

Some notable productions include Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Jurassic World, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Killer Joe, and Reminiscence.

Dreamlanding Festival Park (2016–2018)

In 2016, a group of stakeholders formed “Dreamlanding Festival Park” to buy and rebuild the park, pending city approval.

They planned to spend over $100 million on the project. However, in 2018, the group declared that the park had reached a point of no return and was no longer economically viable to salvage.

Six Flags New Orleans from the Air September 2019
Six Flags New Orleans from the Air September 2019” by George Bannister is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Jazzland Paidia Company (2011–2021)

The Paidia Company submitted proposals in response to the RFPs issued by the Mayor’s office in 2011 and 2014.

Their proposals encompassed innovative themes, an aquatic park, a luxurious hotel, and a versatile retail, dining, and entertainment zone.

However, the city never reached an agreement with Jazzland Paidia Company.

Bayou Phoenix (2021–present)

In October 2021, Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans revealed Bayou Phoenix as the selected collaborator for the site’s redevelopment.

As of March 7, 2023, an agreement was finally reached to redevelop the park.

Current Redevelopment Plan and Progress

The current redevelopment plan, led by Bayou Phoenix, is in its early stages.

As of March 2023, an agreement has been reached with the city, but further details about the specific plans and timeline remained unclear.

Critical challenges faced during the redevelopment process include reaching lease terms agreements, securing funding, and overcoming the park’s deteriorating state.

At the end of March 2023, Bayou Phoenix unveiled its conceptual master plan.

The ambitious plan is to revitalize the long-vacant 200-acre former Six Flags site in New Orleans East. This comprehensive plan envisions a transformation that would bring various attractions to the area.

The proposed project includes the following:

  • 30 acres of illuminated athletic fields featuring professional-level lighting
  • Eight NBA-level hardwood courts
  • Indoor and outdoor water parks
  • Hotels, restaurants, and a film studio
  • A wide variety of stores

With an estimated budget of half a billion dollars, the developer expects the project to be completed in just 42 months.

The Bayou Phoenix redevelopment plan is believed to significantly boost tourism and inject much-needed financial resources into the city.

The diverse range of attractions and facilities in the master plan are designed to appeal to a broad audience, ensuring the project’s long-term success.

New Master Plan Approval: In August 2023, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) approved the Bayou Phoenix master plan for redeveloping the former Six Flags site​​​​.

This plan is ambitious, surpassing the scope of the original amusement park built over two decades ago. It includes a vision for movie studios, indoor and outdoor athletic fields, water parks, and two hotels​​.

Financial and Infrastructure Challenges: The master plan outlines significant capital needs totaling $873 million over the next five years.

This includes repairs and upgrades to Michoud Boulevard and the installation of pumping stations, lighting, and water connections​​.

The project’s success hinges on securing a mix of private investment and public funding, including federal, state, and local grants​​.

Notable Milestones and Events

  • Southern Star Amusement’s failed attempts to revive the park (2008–2011)
  • Jazzland Outlet Mall’s cancellation (2013)
  • Dreamlanding Festival Park’s declaration of the park being economically unviable (2018)
  • Jazzland Paidia Company’s multiple proposals and failure to reach an agreement (2011–2021)
  • Bayou Phoenix’s selection as the redevelopment partner (2021) and the subsequent agreement in March 2023

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