Sitting outside Interstate 10 on New Orleans East, there’s a theme park where carousels have parts missing, Ferris wheels have rounds of shrubs growing at the ends, and alligators sleep in flood waters. There’s also bumper cars that don’t move, roller coasters with rusty paint, and weeds covering signs that read “Have a Great Day!” One of the most infamous spots in the city is actually one that has been abandoned for years, and, so far, it might just stay that way.
Six Flags New Orleans is one of the most famous casualties of Hurricane Katrina. Eleven years after its initial devastation, the park still stands abandoned by human contact. Despite being closed indefinitely, some of the long-standing rides and theme park architecture still stands as an eyesore for anyone driving past the interstate. For anyone daring to move closer, the park then transforms into a post-apocalyptic area bereft of human contact. With its overgrown weeds, half-demolished rides, and layers of graffiti, it stands not only as the spot time forgot but a reminder of the aftermath of the city’s greatest devastation. What happened to Six Flags New Orleans?
The theme park originally opened in 2000 under the name Jazzland. Jazzland operated as any normal park with carousels and spinning rides, but the heart of the amusement park came from the centerpiece ride the Mega Zeph. Built as a wooden coaster with steel frame, it was the signature ride designed to last through hurricane winds. Even now, the 110-foot roller coaster stands as the last great reminder of what was not just Six Flags but Jazzland. No matter what name the park had, a native or tourist could always identify the place by the sprawling coaster scene from a drive. In addition to the Mega Zeph, Jazzland also featured a log flume ride known as the Spillway Splashout as well as the looping Vekoma boomerang ride called the Zydeco Scream.
Unfortunately, the park was less profitable as a full-functioning amusement park, leading the lease to be up for purchase by 2001. Finally, in 2002, Six Flags gained ownership of the facility and officially renamed the park “Six Flags New Orleans” in 2003. Under Six Flags, the amusement park upgraded the area with more shaded areas as well as additional rides such as a reconstructed Batman: The Ride. In the midst of this recreation, however, the park maintained many of its notable features such as the Mega Zeph. With Six Flags New Orleans requiring a more profitable angle, the Six Flags corporation even prepared to extend the area with a water park as part of admission. Plans originally developed in 2005 but were quickly scrapped by the end of August. After Hurricane Katrina, they have not been discussed since.
The park officially closed on August 21, 2005, approximately two days before Hurricane Katrina devastated the Greater New Orleans area. Although the park was scheduled to reopen a few days later, the direct path of the hurricane forced the members to prepare for evacuations rather than minding the park. After evacuation, Six Flags New Orleans, like many locations in New Orleans, faced devastating destruction following flooding and hurricane winds. The rides, built with hurricane winds in mind, stood strong in an abandoned region. However, unlike the rest of the city, the crowds of people never returned. As the city struggled to put itself back together, Six Flags New Orleans remained the abandoned wasteland.
In the more than ten years since Hurricane Katrina, Six Flags New Orleans became the picture of a hauntingly empty environment. After one month of flooding, the city finally drained the area for human contact. Despite this, there was little to no action on the remaining structures. Instead of reconstruction or replacement, the park remained as it was as Six Flags eventually let the lease end. The ownership of what was once Six Flags New Orleans passed through different owners, including the city itself, but plans for its future never fully developed. Nickelodeon Studios attempted to open a water park. Southern Star Amusement attempted to regain the lease. The city of New Orleans even attempted to reform the park as another Jazzland after years of discussion. Still, no plan ever took off for the site, and the park remains ever deserted.
Although the water was drained, the park suffered from a lack of care. Weeds overtook signs and former waiting spots. Smaller rides broke down as parts were stolen by local looters. More surprisingly, areas with extra flooding experienced appearances from actual alligators. As city property, security was added to prevent trespassers and looters, but the precautions failed to stop thrill-seekers from wandering the area. Pictures of the desolation soon appeared around the Internet with viewers fascinated by the post-apocalyptic atmosphere marked by breakdowns and graffiti. As photographers noted, one can still see where people would wait in line or stop for shade. The only things missing are the people.
Despite the occasional trespasser and security clearance, one of the more profitable aspects of the theme park has been its use in filming. Blockbusters such as Jurassic World and Rise of the Planet of the Apes took advantage of the vacant area for shots of parking lots or massive wastelands. In light of park plans falling through, the use of filming allowed the area to space to earn profit within its derelict state. In fact, the empty wasteland location has made it ideal for unique settings, likely pushing back plans for immediate redevelopment. Still, following the work in Jurassic World, filming has since remained stagnant in the area as the city plans its next move for Six Flags New Orleans.
In recent developments, the city of New Orleans appraised the value of the park at approximately three million dollars. While the rides were deemed non-salvageable, the land itself still has a potential use for millions in profit. In addition, the area includes approximately sixty-five acres of undeveloped land for other opportunities. However, plans even now refuse to stick for new developments. With the latest news of value appraisal, it can be a question of whether any plan will stick anytime soon.
Six Flags New Orleans may be one of the most dangerous, run-down, abandoned parts of New Orleans history, but it is also one of the most unique. The park once had a life that was tragically cut short by Hurricane Katrina and struggles to find a new identity whether it be as a park, a photography exposé, or a filming ground. Despite its destruction, the image infamously endures in the eyes of the people, just like the city itself. Even with slight flooding and a few alligators, the Mega Zeph could have another chance if given a try. After ten years, it’s definitely overdue.