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It's not over till its over....
Six Flags Astroworld will close it's gates forever October 30, 2005
"While we continually review our properties in order to determine the best allocation of resources, it is important to note that a unique set of circumstances applies to the AstroWorld property and this action should not be considered indicative of our intentions for any of our other parks," Burke said in a release.
Six Flags said it considered the park's performance in the past several years as well as issues over offsite parking rights related to Reliant Stadium and the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.
Scroll Down for Updates!
Harris County Sports and Convention Association and Reliant Stadium are Threatening the very existence of Astroworld!
For almost 40 years, Astroworld Guests have parked in the same parking lot across Interstate 610 from the park where they would cross what was once the only privately owned bridge over an interstate highway.
The parking area was part of the Astrodomain, and the lot was used by the Oilers, the Astros, Astroworld, The Houston Livestock show and Rodeo, and countless events at the Astrodome and Astroarena. Parking price was dictated by the county, and there were few problems. Anyone who wanted to go to the Game or Astroworld could park on property for a good price.
Enter Reliant Stadium (Harris County Sports and Convention Association) who have figured out that parking should not be easy or cheap. Now, most patrons of the Rodeo or Texans games no longer have the right to park on property and must take shuttle busses because now the spaces are sold at a high price.
Its not enough that parking for Astroworld has jumped to $8.00 at the County's request.
It seems they have been keeping an eye on Astroworld's parking area and are determined to squeeze out a few more dollars at the expense of the amusement park we have grown up with by turning it into VIP parking for the Football games.
Negotiations broke down on September 6 according to the Houston Chronicle.
If unresolved, this may affect the park in a number of ways, but most importantly may affect the park schedule during the fall including the popular Fright Fest in October! Also, Saturday Preseason games in August.
The park will be closed and the land sold.
Six Flags has bent over backwards to accommodate the changes made up until now, including dealing with construction and making people park in the Yellow lot off of Main Street!
Not to mention that Astroworld has lost quite a bit of property in the construction of West Belfort on the South Side of the park and Metro Rail, Adjacent to Waterworld.
Please help and make your voice known! Six Flags Astroworld has been part of this community for over 35 years!
Don't let the NFL and Reliant Stadium drive Houston's only amusement park away!
More Updates as they become available!
Help Save Astroworld
Six Flags Inc.
Kieran E. Burke
Chief Executive Officer & Chief Operating Officer
11501 Northeast Expwy.
Oklahoma City, OK 73131
Harris County Commissioners office
Judge Robert Eckels
1001 Preston, Suite 911
Houston, Tx 77002
Harris County Sports and Convention Association
Board of Directors
Charles “Sonny” L. Sowell
John J. Montalbano
Felix Cook Jr.
Bill T. Teague
Mailing Address: One Reliant Park
Physical Address: Reliant Stadium, South Lobby
Houston, Texas 77054
(832) 667-1841 (Main Number)
(832) 667-1410 (Fax Number)
Willie P. Loston
Director of Operations
Kevin H. Hoffman
Director of Finance & Accounting
Don R. Whitten
Director of Administration
According to this Press Release, Six Flags will be voting on Red Zone's proposal on October 26, 2005.
I really don't think anything will save the park at this point. The park was PACKED over the weekend of 10/16 - 10/17. It seems lots of people want to say good-bye to the place. Its sad to come across people who are just looking around, trying to preserve a memory.
I still think it is so wrong to close the park. I don't think that people in Oklahoma City who run Six Flags should have the right to take Astroworld away from us. More news about the closing later, but for now lets just enjoy the last two weekends we have left.
Robby Austin, who runs the Frontier City fan site sent me this article on the sale of Six Flags. Robby has been a huge part of this site finding articles and doing research. Thanks Robby!
So it seems that there is interest in buying Six Flags. To bad it will be too late to save Astroworld. It's time to pray for a miracle now. Its a long shot that Snyder gets his people elected and stop the sale, but that is the only chance I think.
Six Flags has plans for most of the rides and they will be removed rather quickly after the park closes so they can open next season at other Six Flags parks. This is what will keep Cedar Fair from buying Astroworld. They don't want to buy a park that has no rides.
It's my belief that Six Flags has had this planned for a year or more. Everything seems too convenient to suggest otherwise. They lied to us, the public by claiming they were negotiating a new lease for parking. I believe this was to prevent anyone from mounting an effective movement to save the park. They did not want another Whizzer incident, when the people of Chicago rallied behind the old Schwartzkopf ride and thwarted Six Flags plan to scrap it. (Though I heard it will be quietly scrapped after next year)
Burke did a masterful job with the local media. They bought his story and didn't even question it. My only wish was that someone in the media would have looked into this a little more deeply and the city and county elected officials would have worked harder to keep the park even after the announcement was made. When the Oilers left town, they did everything they could to try to change Bud Adams mind and I wish they would have done the same here. Getting an new amusement park is going to be harder to get than the Texans were.
Interesting article in the Houston Biz confirms that Six Flags made the decision to close the park back in June. Also of note, the Texas Cyclone as expected will be demolished. Six Flags is continuing with the lawsuit.
In light of these revelations, and other facts that I have picked up, I have to say the County and Judge Eckels are not responsible for Astroworld closing. The facts point straight to Oklahoma City and Six Flags Inc. as being the major culprits here.
Interesting communication from Judge Eckels. I will comment on this after I have had time to digest it. Couple of key points are that Six Flags decided to sell the park in June and there may be an investor looking to build a new park. I am looking into both of these claims for more information.
Dear Mr. Robinson:
As a frequent patron of AstroWorld over the years, I too was saddened by the news that it is closing on October 30th. AstroWorld has provided decades of family fun for Houston families. Our community will truly miss this theme park.
Six Flags announced that it decided to sell AstroWorld because it has been under-performing financially for several years, and it is my understanding that the Six Flags Board of Directors made their decision to sell the property in June, 2005, as a way to boost value for Six Flags shareholders, before negotiations began on the parking issue. I believe the parking situation can be resolved, but this will not resolve the long-term issues of land values and park revenue.
Property values in the area have greatly increased over the last five years, and the park is currently sitting on some very valuable property. Six Flags Chief Financial Officer Jim Dannhauser has stated that the "value of the land far outstripped the value of the park as an ongoing business enterprise." It is anticipated the land will sell for $20-$30 per square foot. This equates to between $95 million and $142 million.
I believe there is a strong market in Houston for this type of facility and there may very well be investor interest in building a similar park in the Houston area.
Thank you for emailing me with your concern about this issue.
I visited the park today with my son to start the last days of being able to ride the Texas Cyclone and the other coasters. The morning was rain filled so we just got one ride on the Texas Cyclone. Despite the ugly weather, the park was packed. What I saw were families enjoying the day. Listening to conversation around me, most people were lamenting the parks closing. I thought to myself, looking at the crowds, "How did this happen? How can Six Flags be so dumb?"
Getting on my soapbox here, I really want to know how closing the park will help Six Flags. The money made off the land isn't going to pay off the 2 billion debt. It can't even pay off 1/2% of the debt. The money being made by selling the park is being carpet-bagged north to pay for other parks new attractions and a Hotel Six Flags is building.
Six Flags tried to out-grow its debt and failed miserably. Now only tight fiscal restructuring will eliminate that debt. Closing a proven profitable park, while bringing in money in the short term, will fail to bring in the kind of money Six Flags will need in the long term. Is this the start of the End of Six Flags? It seems to me that when a company can't see past the next fiscal year, it is in trouble. The largest stockholder is in open revolt, trying to take over the board and the company has even put itself up for auction! (I have no idea who would purchase anything that had so much debt on top of it) This is a company skating on thin ice, and selling Astroworld just makes the ice that much weaker.
So what about the parking? I think that if someone put their mind to it, the parking situation could be fixed. There are other places than Reliant to park, Lots of land behind the park sitting empty, At this point, parking is the least of the problems.
What is the problem is Six Flags is going to close Astroworld for good. And Houston, The fourth largest city in the country will be without a theme park.
So Write Mr. Burke and let him know you feel! By the crowds in the park, and the mood they were in, there is a lot of interest in keeping Astroworld open.
An editorial from Amusement Today can be found here.
I received the following e-mail from Tara who works at the park. I really think it exemplifies everything that the employees of Astroworld are feeling.
After viewing your site, it was extremely touching for so many of us love Six Flags Astroworld. I'm currently an employee at Astroworld and I find it extremely unfair that they didn't tell us themselves that they were planning on closing Astroworld. I remember coming home from school and my mother telling me that I'll have to look for another job. I then contacted my supervisors and they weren't even informed about the park closing either. It hurts me soooo much to see the job I enjoy most being taken away from me. I planned to work at Astroworld for the next 3-4 working there while attending college, because I've dedicated my life to Astroworld and I knew that I was a great asset to the company and was well on my way up in the management chain. Now, it's all about to be taken away from me, so many wonderful employees whose actually dedicated their lives to make Astroworld what it is today. So now that we are aware of this parks closing, we're just making the best of our last days. We as employees, are going to let Astroworld go out with a bang... I mean it's our job "To make family fun and fond memories....", and that what were are going to exemplify there. I thank you soooo much for fighting for us, we are staying strong, united as a family, no one is going to break us, we are still hoping for a miracle and we're not giving up yet. And I don't want you to give up either. Thank you for believing in us! And like they said, we gave it a good run, Astroworld is my home and always will be, they made me the better person I am today! Even though I'm still a teenager and there's other jobs out there, I'd still choose Astroworld before any other. So once again, I thank you, and God Bless You!...and by the way, ASTROWORLD created the famous saying, "IT'S PLAYTIME!"
That kind of devotion and love for a job is not found often. It was found at Astroworld, year after year. I think employees and guests had the same feelings judging from the e-mail I am getting.
As I said in my last update, you deserve so much better....
Not much news to report, lots of rumors going around but they are just rumors, nothing more. Right now I am planning my last visits to the park. With Hurricane Rita dominating the news, not much attention is left is given to the park closing. I wish I had better news but it looks like nothing has changed. Astroworld Employees, keep you chin up and be proud of the work that you have done. Your have shown what great customer service can do and you all deserve so much better than this.
Was on the Pat Gray show this morning and I think I was able to dispel some untruths about Astroworld. The park is profitable, the park is not under-performing, it is performing to Six Flags Standards. The park is not old and run down, but clean and vibrant. There are no gangs roaming the park.
This is a credit to all the staff at Astroworld. Despite Six Flags Inc. budget cuts that affected Park hours, upkeep and maintenance, staffing and even running of all the rides, Astroworld is still a terrific park.
In other news, according to this Link, Cedar Fair might be interested in buying Astroworld.
If they are interested, here is a possible solution to the parking problem as suggested by Mark Bailey:
Remove Southern Star and make it the new front gate. This would clear up the present front gate for future development. There is quite a bit of empty land south of Astroworld that could be used as parking. Trams would be needed to get the guests to the front gate, but the park would no longer be at the mercy of Harris County for parking.
Well, its been an emotional few days. I am not quitting yet. Dan Snyder, with Redzone LLC. has filed a motion with the SEC protesting the selling of the park, while Six Flags is trying to sell itself. I have heard a number of good ideas, the best one being buying land behind Astroworld that is vacant and shuttling people from there. Of course there is the fact that Mr. Burke has found an easy way to make this years interest payment on a 2 billion dollar debt, but he could do that by canceling a few capital projects in other parks. Believe it or not, some parks get new rides EVERY YEAR.
The people of Chicago saved The Whizzer by voicing their opinion and while this is a bigger project, I believe it can be done.
Astroworld is worth Saving. 1500 seasonal Jobs, 120 fulltime jobs and the tourist it brings in is reason enough. Astroworld is the LARGEST employer of Teens in this City. Think about that.
When you get off an Airplane at Hobby Airport, what do you see outside of security? A HUGE picture of the Texas Cyclone.
Lets think with our wallets, Astroworld brings Jobs and Tourists, something Houston is far to short of. Lets not lose that.
Good Bye Astroworld!
Today's Houston Chronicle states that negotiations over parking broke down on September 6. The county states that parking was not an issue in the closing of the park citing declining attendance. Well, I have to ask, if parking was not the issue why were negotiations continuing until the 6th? Why does this announcement come 6 days after negotiations failed? Because it is about parking. Six Flags Inc., being in 2 billion dollars in debt could not afford to or was unwilling to build a parking structure. With no where to have customers park, what choice did they have but to sell the property, and take the money it makes to make a payment on the debt. Six Flags has another property within Harris County, Splashtown. They needed a graceful exit that does not alienate Harris County. I wonder if some sort of deal was worked out so Six Flags would take the blame. But make no mistake, this came down to parking. The Houston Sports and Convention Association and the Live Stock Show and Rodeo used their muscle and won.
That's not to say Six Flags Inc. is blameless. The company has problems. The debt is so big they could sell all 29 of their other parks and still be in debt. This is a short sighted solution to a much larger problem.
SIX FLAGS ASTROWORLD TO SUSPEND OPERATIONS OVER THE LABOR DAY WEEKEND
EMERGENCY RELIEF EFFORTS AT ASTRODOME
HOUSTON, TX: Six Flags AstroWorld announced today that the park will
not be open over the Labor Day holiday weekend. The park will be closed
to ensure that the traffic usually generated by a busy holiday weekend
does not interfere with relief efforts taking place at the Astrodome.
Six Flags AstroWorld and the Astrodome share a parking lot and the
increased traffic that theme park operation generates could impede the
ingress and egress of humanitarian efforts for those displaced by
hurricane Katrina. We hope this will allow our community to make the
necessary adjustments to accommodate and care for the evacuees.
The park will reopen next weekend on Saturday, September 10 at 10 a.m.
To give up revenue from what is traditionally a huge 3 day weekend is a major commitment.
This will be the last update for awhile. There are more important things at stake than parking right now. The Reliant Astrodome is becoming a shelter for 20,000 plus people. This is a wonderful gesture on the part of the folks at Reliant. Six Flags is offering free admission to the evacuees. The people responsible for these heartfelt gestures are the same people disagreeing over parking. I think the current events put things in perspective.
Please Donate to the Red Cross, Help the people from New Orleans if you see them. Open your hearts to these people who have lost so much.
These peoples Home has become a world that can not support life. No Drinking Water, No Food, No Power. Add to this the loss of friends and families and jobs, we should be grateful and do whatever we can to help.
Six Flags AstroWorld and Six Flags SplashTown to
Donate Money, Tickets to Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Relief
Six Flags AstroWorld and Six Flags SplashTown will donate $1 to the Red Cross hurricane relief effort from each paid admission during Labor Day weekend. The parks will also be offering the Astrodome housing organizers a block of complimentary tickets to distribute to evacuees at the organizer’s discretion.
Yesterday’s announcement that hurricane evacuees from the Superdome are being moved to the Astrodome necessitated the need to change an offer of free admission to all evacuees announced earlier this week. Due to capacity constraints, officials felt the number of free admissions per day needed to be controlled.
“Our staff wanted to move quickly to do something for those impacted by the hurricane,” said park general manager, Chuck Hendrix. “We hope that contributing money to the Red Cross relief efforts will help those staying with us here in Houston return home soon.”
For more information, please visit sixflags.com or call 713-799-1234.
I think some people that evacuated to Houston are tired of being glued to CNN as they watch the news on New Orleans. Hopefully some families can try to enjoy the Labor Day Weekend.
Please Donate to the Red Cross
I received the following e-mail from the County Commissioners office
No Response from the Harris County Sports and Convention Association
Dear Mr. Robinson:
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the parking area for Astroworld. It is true that the Texans, the Rodeo, and Six Flags Astroworld are going through some tough negotiations involving their respective parking spaces.
I am very hopeful that Six Flags Astroworld and the other organizations at the Reliant Complex will resolve their differences and continue to provide Houston families with a great, fun filled complex.
If my office can be of further service to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Robert Eckels, County Judge
Isn't this county land? It seems to me that a Business (Astroworld) that brings cars into the parking lot for 130 plus days a year vs. Texans games that brings cars in 12 days a year would be treated a little better. How many people go to Astroworld vs. Texans games? (A Hint: Most families can AFFORD to go to Astroworld) Astroworld can be visited for a fraction of the cost. I really hope the powers that be realize that Astroworld is a family destination that is visited by thousands of people every day of operation.
Circle May 13, 2006 on your calendar. Why? Well it seems that CHAMP (The open wheel racing series) will have its first night race at Reliant Park that night. Judging by the disruption this caused downtown when the race was held there (Under the Banner of CART) we can expect to see a lot of repaving, construction of Grandstands, Facilities, Lights and miles and miles of cable to be installed. Details on the race course will be released next month and I will post the info here as soon as it is available, but at first glance, this can't be good news for Astroworld parking as the busy summer season is starting.
Read here for more information.
Last nights news had a story on a new life for the Astrodome. A 1,200 room hotel complex that surrounds a open area within the Dome that will have Shops, restaurants and attractions. The Artist rendition's show something that looks very much like Opryland USA.
Read more HERE
So we will have a Hotel and shopping area but where will everyone park on Game Days? (why not turn the dome into a parking structure? Think of the revenue it could bring in for major events and everyone would make money and be happy!)
It seems to me that now is the time to fix the parking in preparation of this project. A solution that can accommodate the Texans, Astroworld, and all the Reliant facilities in Reliant park. With a Hotel complex on property, think of the cross merchandising that can happen between all parties. Lets hope everyone can get together and find a solution before more demand is needed.
Game Day Update
Well to today is game day for the Houston's Texans Pre-season Football game. As it turns out, the Parking Lot that Astroworld has used for so long was not available to them as it is now the "Blue Lot", or VIP parking for the football game. Astroworld customers were parking in the South East corner of the Reliant park. Not only is it a further walk but it seems a lot smaller.
This is what greeted guests approaching the parking lot for the day
If your going to Astroworld, would this mean much?
Astroworld Customers have to enter the parking lot through what is normally the Exit.
This means temporary toll booths and not as many lanes for use.
At least Reliant Park clarified things with this sign that explains everything.
The normal Astroworld sign was covered. Behind that sign is Astroworld's normal parking area. Now the normal Astroworld Parking Plaza booths were being used for the Football game, even though the Marquee above it was all about Astroworld.
In doing some research I found the following document.
On the second page of the document is an interesting sentence:
"Further, until the Corporation, the County and/or a County Affiliate have acquired title to a sufficient amount of Additional Parking Land to increase the total number of Parking spaces available to the Club and the Rodeo as part of the Parking Facilities to at least 25,000 parking spaces without any deduction for any parking required to be made available to Astroworld...
Read it for yourself and draw your own opinion!
With the first pre-season game for the Texans on Saturday at 7:00PM, It will be interesting to see the parking situation. With the late game, there might not be much of an issue so we will see. Past experience has taught me that parking for the park will for the most part be in the most Southeast portion of the lot, bordered by Fannin and the 610 loop. The park is open until 10:00PM so there will be some overlap. Anyone going to the park late on Saturday, me and let me know how it goes.
Some Info on the Lawsuit
In May of 2005, Six Flags Incorporated Filed a lawsuit against the Houston Sports and Convention Cooperation. The lawsuit claims that the Corp. wrongfully took away Astroworld's parking spots. Six Flags is seeking an injunction that will ensure the same spots used since 1975. It also claims these spots were leased to the Houston Livestock show and Rodeo and the Houston Texans.
Claiming lost revenue, the suit is also asking for 10 million dollars stating that the uncertainty has prevented the park from upgrading equipment and adding rides.
Also at issue is the lease for the parking spots that Astroworld claims runs through 2015 and automatic renewals through 2030. The Houston Sports and Convention Cooperation claim the lease ran out on March 15th of this year.
Also named in the suit is NFL Holdings and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
So it seems to me that Astroworld is just looking for the same parking spots they have used for 30 years. The big question is about the lease for the parking spots. A 10 year difference is quite big.
Not to much new news to report but I have heard reports that a temporary agreement has been met. Since this is in litigation not much information is available. I did speak to the County Commissioners office who assured me that they wanted an agreement reached as soon as possible, but since the suit is between 2 or more corporations, they did not have much involvement. Yes the County owns the property but Harris County Sports and Convention Association runs it as a business.
I received an e-mail from Oliver Luck, Chairman of the Houston Sports Authority. In it he states:
"The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority is not involved in the Astroworld parking situation at all. Our involvement with Reliant Park is limited to the financing for the football/rodeo stadium. The appropriate people to contact re parking are listed below. I would appreciate it if you could update your website to reflect this. Thank you for your help."
Thank you Mr. Luck! The contact information has been updated below. My apologies for misrepresenting your organization
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