Friday, August 30, 2019

The history of Six Flags New Orleans on the 14th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Dorian bearing down on Florida reminds me that it's the now the heart of hurricane season.  It also reminds me that yesterday was the fourteenth anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.  To mark the occasion, I'm sharing a video that has a unique perspective on the disaster, Expedition Theme Park's The Abandoned History of Jazzland/Six Flags New Orleans | Expedition Extinct.

Join us on Expedition Extinct as we look at the tragic fate of Jazzland, later known as Six Flags New Orleans. This struggling park was abandoned when the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
I used to work as a tour guide at a theme park that now sits abandoned, so even though I never visited Six Flags New Orleans, its story still hits close to home.  Here's to hoping that Dorian doesn't do the same to Florida's theme parks, although it's not likely to hit Orlando directly (ETA: Actually, the most recent projections show it will on Wednesday) and those parks are more resilient.

I'll keep an eye on Dorian this holiday weekend and promise to share stories I find worth my readers' time.  In the meantime, stay tuned for an update to Senators and Representatives running for the Democratic nomination are drifting to the left as they campaign as the final post of the month tomorrow evening.


  1. My question is: "Who lends money for this stuff?" I realise there's a degree of risk when banks? venture capitalists? pension funds? some combination of those? lend "money." ("Money" actually being imaginary "credit" created out of thin air by the favoured entities who The System allows to perform financial prestidigitation.) Did the original park developers whip up SUCH a razzle-dazzle business plan that they got $135 million (I think that was the number I heard in the vid) for a park in the middle of a remote-from-downtown po-person zone? Who ate the loss when Six Flags paid $22 million for it not immensely long afterward? What kind of credulous corpodrones would approve putting $22 mill for something that already proved a loser? I suppose there was the hubris of "We're Six Flags -- we always win!" (just as there is for the entire USA). I bet if one looked at the nitty-gritty, there are all sorts of tax dodges and obligation-shucking clauses, like was alluded to in the video's discussion of the bankruptcy, that blunt the damage to the corporations.

    I'm glad my second ex and I visited N.O. when we did, in 2002. (I had been there before, as a 13-year-old, with this really cool teacher who fit the profile of a paedophile, who'd take groups of his best students on cross-country trips in a van with a pull-along camper. Getting to walk down Bourbon Street at night as a curious teen, FTW!) The X and I were foodies, and she planned the trip based mainly on the restaurants she wanted to try in N'Awlins. Good times... We knew even in 2002 that N.O. could be wiped out at any time. Sad that it happened. So much of wha's occurred in the U.S. leaves me with regrets, tinged with joy that I experienced the country in what may well have been its peak. I hope I'm wrong with my doomview, but time keeps proving me right. At least it's not happening as fast as I expected.

    Lastly, the drone footage at the end put me in mind of "The World Without Us." Nature reclaiming, tree by tree, rust never sleeping. The Long Emergency will unfold slowly...

    1. You got me to rewatch the video and listen for the park's construction/financing costs. I caught the $22 million purchase price Six Flags paid for Jazzland, but didn't hear anything at all, let alone $135 million. As for who took the loss, I think it was split among Six Flags, its financiers, its insurance company, and the City of New Orleans. And, yes, one can turn those losses into tax write offs that pay for themselves.

      Thanks for pointing out how this entry ties into my blog's overarching theme of collapse and decline. I didn't even think about the connection; I just thought it was a cool, if sad, example.

    2. IIRC, the $135 mill comes early in the vid as the price the original developers paid to build Jazzland.

      "I didn't even think about the connection"

      Heck's becks, I thought that was your reason for putting this item up. Maybe you were adhering to theme subconsciously

    3. You're right. The narrator cited that figure at 3:00. Thanks for making me listen to it again. Third time's a charm!

      I think you're right about this topic being a subconscious expression of the theme of this blog. I've been thinking about the demise of Six Flags New Orleans for at least a decade and I've been waiting for a chance to write about it. Finding this video was the perfect excuse.

    4. The original developer was a local, not Six Flags. As with most projects like this, the original financing was a mix that included private equity, debt, a $10 million state grant (the reason the city owns it now), and a $25 million HUD loan that the city was on the hook for (city ended up paying roughly $15 million of it, Jazzland and Six Flags covering most of the payments from 2000-2009). And like most internet "reports", a lot of misinformation in Expedition's version of the history. The park sat directly across I-510 from an upper scale gated neighborhood with homes in the $750-900k range ... not exactly po-person zone. The local developer sold the park on opening day to a foreign company that had other U.S. properties. That company decided to get out of the U.S. market, bankruptcy was easier than trying to sell a new park with construction debt on the books. In comes Six Flags with a lease. Between profits from operations, relocating equipment elsewhere, and insurance proceeds, they netted roughly $50 million for their original $22 million investment. So doubled their money in 7 years. Their lease was terminated in 2009, along with their lease for Kentucky Kingdom. The city of New Orleans still owns the property.

    5. Thanks for that information. That helped clarify the finances, which the video left so opaque that Bukko and I had to go round and round to even understand the limited facts Expedition Theme Park listed. For what it's worth, this is why I would rather have a video from Defunctland or Bright Sun Films. They do better research.