The story of this amusement park company has much in common with one of its own roller coasters. From the beginnings of the company in 1961, when it opened its first amusement park in Arlington, Texas, until the present day, there have been some dramatic rises and falls.
The six flags, which gave the first amusement park its name, are the flags of Texas and represent the state’s colourful history of change. They are those of Spain, France, Mexico, Texas, the Confederate States and finally the USA. The Texas flag, with its lone star, has colours of blue [loyalty], white [purity] and red [bravery]. The amusement park company certainly showed a considerable amount of the latter quality after Premier Parks acquired it from Time Warner in 1998.
An aggressive programme of development began and it ended with the ownership of 32 amusement parks of various kinds and debts of 2 billion dollars. Some of these amusement parks were outside of the USA and included parks in Holland, Spain, Belgium and Mexico.
In 2005, shareholder action brought in Mark Shapiro, then aged 35, as Chief Executive Officer. Mark left the cable network ESPN to join Daniel Snyder in an attempt to turn around the ailing amusement park company. Between 2004 and 2005, there was a programme of sell off and the closure of one of the parks. Worlds of Adventure was sold to Cedar Point – at one time it had hoped that the adventure park would become a rival to Cedar Point itself.
Shapiro’s approach was of concern to fans of amusement parks who feel that roller coasters were the main attraction. He perceived that amusement parks had got into a race, with no end, to produce bigger and more expensive coasters and felt that the Six Flags amusement parks had neglected other aspects. He aimed to make the parks all round family experiences, with less reliance on coasters and more on creating amusement parks where care of the
parks themselves and of their guests is the priority.
The latest amusement park is an example of this new approach. It was opened by the group in 2006 and is the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge in Queensbury, New York State, which has 200 family suites and is a water park. It will be interesting to see how it is received. In 2006, the amusement park company employed 2, 500 full time staff and an additional 33, 000 in the season.
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