As part of Southern Star Amusement’s redevelopment efforts, planning has begun on what to do with the shuttered New Orleans amusement park property. Danny Rogers, founder of the company, and long time amusement industry veteran, stated, “Engineering assessments have been performed on the remaining major rides. We are now in possession of firm quotes on the repair work necessary to restore the equipment to safe operating condition.”
While the property received substantial damage as the result of Hurricane Katrina, the overall condition of the structures are such that rebuilding makes more sense than tearing down. Additionally, remediation work has, for the most part, been completed on the building structures making them ready for redevelopment.
Plans are underway to transform the shuttered property with new themes and attractions. In addition to restoring the remaining major rides, including the Mega Zeph wooden rollercoaster, new rides are now being sourced as additions. Much has been said about the heat and bright sun affecting guests during the New Orleans summer. Rogers confirmed that water park rides and attractions would be added as one way of helping guests “beat the heat”. Other additions will include shade structures, misting stations, as well as more indoor rides and shows. “Our landscaping team is also working on plans to bring in native and ornamental trees to help with shading and beautification.”
Rogers’ team is most excited about new rides and shows that will be infused with musical elements. One ride, in particular, will highlight Louisiana music and culture. While licensing agreements are still being negotiated, Rogers stated, “We are really excited about this one and believe this ride may become one of our major signature attractions.” Efforts are underway to create attractions that appeal to the entire family. Even rides meant for the youngest guests will be appealing, and comfortable to ride for all family members. Many new jobs will be created for musicians, performers and artisans.
The water park elements of the project, while integrated into the overall layout, will be situated so that they can be closed off during inclement weather, allowing for the remainder of the park to stay open. This will also allow the park to operate year round. With this in mind, the creative team is also planning festivities for the various holiday seasons. “Most parks now have special Halloween activities. We will, of course, have those, as well as Christmas and Mardi Gras celebrations, ” stated Rogers.
Southern Star Amusement, Inc. is currently negotiating to acquire control of the former Jazzland/Six Flags New Orleans amusement park property. The property, city owned but currently still under lease to Six Flags, has sat dormant for the past three years. Six Flags has stated that they have no intention of re-opening the shuttered property.
As a city owned facility, Rogers said that the mayor’s office is in an unenviable position. “There are really only two options available to the city, ” Rogers went on to say. “Find an operator to re-open the property, or level the place for other development possibilities. The current debt obligation the city has on the property makes the case that finding another operator is the only real option that makes financial sense.” The city currently owes in excess of 16 million dollars on HUD loans from the original Jazzland development. Rogers has stated that the property is only worth a third of that in its current condition. While Six Flags has been making lease payments that the city used for paying on the loans, they only amount to a portion of the annual payments. The city has been paying additional monies to satisfy the debt, without the benefit of receiving sales tax revenues while the property sits dormant. “It really is unfortunate the position the city has been placed in, due to both Katrina and Six Flags’ financial situation, ” Rogers stated. “With the current economy, this is money that the city could really use for other things. We are dedicated to finding a workable solution that helps the city of New Orleans satisfy their current HUD loan obligations, brings in new jobs and tax revenues, as well as reinvigorates the area.”
Southern Star Amusement has offered suggestions on methods that could bring both parties to a reasonable resolution, saving both from an extended legal battle. The question remains, are both parties willing to see reason for the good of the people. Southern Star Amusement stands ready to rebuild the park and return it to service, but must wait for the City and Six Flags to work out their differences. Recent equipment removals, as well as continued delays, hamper any efforts for redevelopment.
About Southern Star Amusement
Southern Star Amusement, Inc., is a location based entertainment development company dedicated to creating quality, family friendly attractions. More information can be found at southernstaramusement.com.