Astroworld

1968 - 2005

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Astroworld Park - for former employees

To see this page as it existed as of October 21, 2005


1 Why was Astroworld closed?

Six Flags was in a real mess. Kieran Burke, the CEO of Six Flags was desperate. He had the stockholders breathing down his neck and had to do something. Six Flags was in debt for 2 to 3 BILLION dollars. Burke though the could make over 100 million of the sale of the property. So he decided to sell the property Astroworld sits on, telling everyone that the value of the land was far greater than the value of the park itself. Based on the fact he entertained no other offers, it is my belief that he had deal in place to sell the land before the announcement. Since the demo of Waterworld started pretty much immediately after the announcement, I think he had a very aggressive timetable to meet to clear the land.

Other than that, there really is no good reason. Burke was so desperate to keep control of Six Flags, he thought any infusion of cash would make the stockholders happy. He proceeded to put the chain up for sale, another desperate move. He then LIED to the stockholders saying he was getting offers when in fact we found out that was not true.

Burke was a pathetic man, a poor leader and had no business running Six Flags. He did more damage to the company than any of the previous owners combined. So looking at those facts, is it hard to believe he could screw up so bad he costs us our park that we loved?

Thankfully Burke was removed by the Stockholders. Now in place is Mark Shapiro who seems much more qualified to run Six Flags. Shapiro has a team in place that is made of the best in the business so hopefully an occurrence like this will not happen again.


2. Why didnít the City or County do anything?

Who is to say they didnít? No matter what their hands were tied. This was a Private real estate deal that did not involve Public Land.

3. What was the deal with parking?

Parking was an issue, but I have been informed that a deal could have been very easily worked out. A deal was almost complete that was very generous when Burke pulled the plug on negotiations and decided to sue the County.

4. If the City can spend money on X Y or Z, why couldnít they save the park?

The City and the County spend money on public projects. Now thatís not to say that given time they wouldnít have been able to but to raise 100 million, but bonds would have had to been issued and a referendum would have to have been passed. This could not have been done in the short window of time between the announcement of the sale and the demolition. That assumes that Burke would have been willing to sell, which I don't think he would have.

5. Why were Eminent Domain Laws not used?

Eminent Domain laws are very specific in what the can and can not be used for. They do not apply to this situation.


6. Why didnít the city or county pass an injunction to stop this?

No Laws were being broken, there was no legal basis to issue an injunction


7. IF the City of New York could Save the Coney Island Cyclone, why couldnít the Texas Cyclone be saved?

The Coney Island Cyclone was owned by the City of New York, In fact they still own it and lease it to Astroland.
The coaster was condemned in 1969 and scheduled for demolition but a grass roots movement stepped in and the coaster was saved to re-open in 1975,
So that is the key difference between our cyclone and the one in Coney Island.
The ride was already owned by the city, the land is owned by the city and despite that, it still took 6 years to save.
In contrast, the Texas Cyclone was not owned by the city of Houston, the land was not owned by the city of Houston and we sure did not have 6 months much less 6 years.

8. What will happen to the land?

Update! The land has been sold for 77 million dollars, far less than Burke had predicted!

That remains to be seenÖ. Stay tuned.

One thing seems clear.  Whatever Burke had in mind did not work out.  It looks like Burke  closed Astroworld for no good reason other than try to save his own skin.  The rest of Six Flags parks are open and making money.  Meanwhile, The property Astroworld just sits there with nothing happening.  No money coming in.


November 4, 2006

Well, its been a year now since the park closed and the land still sits unused.......

I am going to address some questions that keep coming my way...

1.  What about these rumors about Disney buying land in Katy, or Conroe or Plantersville or anywhere else?  Are they building a park in Texas?

The short answer is no.  Disney is not going to build a park in Texas.  I know there are always rumors about Disney bought this or that but they are just rumors.  I can not find any evidence of Disney buying land.  Disney is concentrating its efforts in Overseas Developments, Disney's California Adventure is about to be completely rebuilt and any new park in the US will be built in the WDW resort area.  These rumors pop up in EVERY part of the country, they are not unique to Texas. 

 

2.  What is going to happen to the land that Astroworld was located on?

Still unknown,  but whatever happens sure is not happening fast.  I can see why Burke was in such a hurry, as the land is in SO MUCH demand.

 

3.  Is there a New Amusement Park going to be built?

I have not heard of one BUT I have heard plans to build an "Edutainment" Park North East of Town.

Dinosaur City, a 50-acre entertainment and education establishment based on the formidable creatures of prehistoric eras, will make the county its home after the project's owner, "Dino" Don Lessem, negotiated an agreement with the East Montgomery County Improvement District.
The attraction, which will sit north of the US 59 and FM 1485 intersection, is slated to open near the summer of 2010. It will offer a museum complex with the world's largest collection of information about dinosaurs, theaters, exotic live animals, fossil digs, water features and special effects meant to place patrons at the time the prehistoric giants roamed the earth.
Other tourist draws at the attraction will include hiking trails, a large RV park, a hotel and a convention center, Lessem said.
Don Holbrook, site selection director and economic development expert, projects Dinosaur City will be the second-greatest tourist destination in the state after the Alamo by 2011. In its first few years, it will generate more than 500 jobs and has the potential to generate 1,000, EMCID officials said.
Potential revenue projections were unavailable.
Lessem said he chose the area for the "edutainment" park because of its proximity to the highly-populated Houston region and because it is centrally located between Universal Studios in Los Angeles and Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Lessem has worked to re-create dinosaur life at both locations.
He has also authored about 50 dinosaur-related books and advised Universal Studios' movie "Jurassic Park," directed by Steven Spielberg.
He said he will harness his experiences working in movies and theme parks to create Dinosaur City.
"This is the culmination of my life's work," he said. "I want it to be done right. I'm not interested in compromising."
Lessem said the untouched landscape the area offers appealed to him.
However, he said it was the East Montgomery County Improvement District's emphasis on education that ultimately impressed him.
Calling district officials "a very experienced and entrepreneurial group of community leaders with a commitment to education," Lessem said he found the area the most attractive for the venue.
"The land offered was also attractive because it was not developed in any way, so we could work in the natural beauty we want retain," he said.
Frank McCrady, president and CEO of EMCID, said the area has always been an "under-served market."
"We are the last undeveloped corridor leaving Houston," he said. "What we are experiencing now is a lot of outside investment into our area" because property prices are low.
McCrady said EMCID began serious negotiations with Project Rex, the company that owns the venture, six months ago. He said he anticipates seeing site development plans sometime between January and March 2007.
"They started their site evaluation nationwide two years ago," he said, adding the district and Lessem also included the state governor's office in the negotiations.
Andy Dill, president of the Community Chamber of East Montgomery County, said the exciting new development "puts us on the map."
Learning of the attraction around noon Tuesday, Dill said, "It will be a stepping stone."
He said the future of East Montgomery County won't look anything like it does today.
"We're very appreciative of East Montgomery County Improvement District for their efforts. They are definitely a player in bringing this project as well as others," Dill said.
Isidor Ybarra, vice chairman of EMCID, said he is excited about the boost in revenue for the Splendora and New Caney school districts.
"It is mind boggling what will occur when that happens," he said, later adding, "We're really pleased we were selected for this. We're speechless about it."

50 Million Dollars is really not that much when it comes to an Amusement park.  This is the start of "Something" and lets wish them luck.  Hopefully it will be better than the Johnson Space Center Visitors Center.    The JSC Visitors center is another "Edutainment" project.  Unfortunately it is a glorified Chucky Cheese.  The place is unorganized, the exhibits are  hidden away and the place is very unimpressive.  The Highlight of a visit there is the Tram tour which unfortunately has been impossible to ride on my visits.  Do yourself a favor and go to the Kemah Boardwalk instead.

Some Random Thoughts.....

The Houston Chronicle Readers Poll selected Kemah Boardwalk as the Number 1 attraction to take out of town guests!

The costs for Six Flags to install 3 Rides (Goliath at SFOG, El Toro at SFGADv and Goliath at La Ronde) came to 57 million dollars.  So if you want to know where the money went from the sale of Astroworld, there it is. 

Six Flags Splashtown is planning to be a Six Flags park next year.  There seems to be little movement on the sale of this property and the other properties Six Flags has discussed selling.  Lets hope they put some money into the park for some improvements and advertising!


 

 

May 10, 2006

Some interesting numbers released over the past couple of days....

First, the property has been sold for 77 million dollars, the buyer will be revealed in June when the deal closes.

Demolition cost were 20 million.

So Astroworld was closed for 57 million dollars, far less than Burke had predicted.

At the time Burke hired Cushman and Wakefield to sell the land they had this to say:

"A Cushman & Wakefield executive told the Houston Chronicle that the property could fetch between $95 million and $145 million."

So we find Burke wrong again.

Just a couple of points come to mind.

1.  What if that 20 million that was spent on demolition was spent on capital improvements instead?  Astroworld would have been raking in the money, it would have returned on its investment in just a few years.

2.  How much more money could Burke have made selling the park INTACT to another chain like Cedar Fair?  They were interested and I bet it would have made a lot more money for Six Flags.

The only saving grace here is the fact that anyone who was involved with this fiasco from Six Flags is long gone.  The new regime admits what a mistake it was.


3/12/2006

 

Here you can see that the demolition is is entering the final stages.  On the upper left it is complete while towards the bottom of the property construction machines are tearing away at what used to be Thunder River. 

 

In this picture the remains of the Texas Cyclone are being removed and a very fast pace.  Also the Administration building has been leveled.  The only structures still standing are the warehouses they they will be gone very soon.

 

On a Positive note, Mayan Mindbender and Greezed Lightning will be staying in Texas, thanks to the efforts of Gary Slade, of Amusement Today.

Read more HERE  (If your a park enthusiast, this is a Amusement Today is a GREAT publication, Subscribe now!)


 

2/27/2006 - UPDATED

The demolition continues at the park at a frantic pace.  For pictures of the demolition, look at www.oldastroworld.com

This piece of track is now sitting in storage awaiting the opening of the Rollercoaster Museum. This was sent to me by Henry Guien.

It looks like some pieces are being cut out before the ride gets demolished.

As far as the rest of the rides that I know about, here is a partial list.

Greezed Lightning - Joyland Amusement Park in Lubbock  2007 opening

Mayan Mindbender - Wonderland Amusement Park in Amarillo 2007 Opening

Viper - Scrapped

XLR8 - Scrapped

Serial Thriller - In Storage at Six Flags Great Escape 2007 Opening

Tidal Wave - In Storage at Six Flags Great Escape 2007 Opening

Batman: The Escape - In Storage at Six Flags Darien Lake

Serpent - Sold for Scrap

UltraTwister - In Storage at Six Flags America

Dungeon Drop - Will open for the 2006 Season as Superman: Tower of Power at Six Flags St. Louis

Swat - Will Open for 2006 Season at Six Flags New England

Diablo Falls -  Will Open for 2006 Season at Six Flags New England

I will update this list as more information becomes available. 


 Update 1/19/2006

Some info on the 610 Limited Steam Engine

The Steam Engine was bought by a private collector and will join 2 other steam engines at the Santa Margarita Ranch in California.

They do allow the public to ride at the Pacific Coast Railroad Roundup


 Update 1/10/2006

The public Auction was held this past weekend.  While the coasters seemed to be the stars of the auction, signs and other memorabilia went for some very high prices.  The Fiberglass Steer that sat on top of the Western Smokehouse brought in higher bids than the Rollercoasters.  It seems that lots of people really love Astroworld and opened their wallets to take home a peace of history

As far as the Rollercoasters, here is how the Auction went:

VIPER--$8000...did not meet reserve price
GREASED LIGHTNING $8000..did not meet reserve price.

MAYAN MINDBENDER $9000...did not meet the reserve price.

XLR8--$7000..did not meet the reserve price.

From what I understand, the high bids went to Scrap Dealers but since the reserve price was not met, the future of these rides is very uncertain.


BARNSTORMER--$5000


LOOPING STARSHIP $17,000
GUNSLINGER $23000
SERPENT (TRACK ONLY) $4000

The Serpent track was sold for scrap.

The next day of the auction, saw people bidding two and three hundred dollars for restroom signs.  The Thunder River sign went for $5,000!  Signs from the lift hill of the Texas Cyclone went for over $1,000!

               

Above, some pictures from Sundays Auction

       

Batman: The Escape being removed

   

UltraTwister

   

Greased Lightning

Texas Cyclone

Some of the bracing has been removed and the cables supporting the structure appear to be gone.

 

And Now for some Good, no, GREAT news.

Chuck Hendrix is the perfect man for the job.  Mr. Hendrix knows what works and what does not work.  His incredible skills kept Astroworld the wonderful park it was despite being handed one of the smallest budgets in the chain.  Chuck can always turn Lemons into lemonade.  He is the perfect choice to help guide Six Flags in the right direction.  Good Luck Chuck!

NEW YORK, Dec. 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Mark Shapiro, President and CEO Six Flags, Inc, announced today two key appointments to lead a new division at Six Flags theme parks.

Mark Quenzel has been named Executive Vice President of Park Strategy and Management and Chuck Hendrix Senior Vice President of Park Strategy and Management, reporting to Quenzel. As head of the Park Strategy and Management division, Quenzel will oversee all park operations, in-park revenue, ticket sales and safety for the 30 Six Flags theme parks.

"I am excited to welcome Mark and Chuck to this new division of Six Flags," said Shapiro. "They have the leadership, creative skill and expertise to implement new operating strategies and make good on our commitment to improve the guest experience at our theme parks from coast-to-coast. Establishing this new division is the first step in a new era of family entertainment at Six Flags."

Mark Quenzel, 49, joins Six Flags following 15 years with ESPN. At ESPN, Quenzel served as Senior Vice President of Programming and Production. In that capacity, he ran four divisions: Owned Events, Outdoors, Remote Productions and Remote Facilities; and supervised 375 full time employees and 4,000 seasonal providers. Quenzel also was part of the team that created the popular X Games franchise as well as the Great Outdoor Games. During his tenure, he was charged with the oversight of a number of major sport properties and brands such as NASCAR, NHL, MLB and B.A.S.S.

Said Quenzel: "The mission of Park Strategy and Management is clear, to make every day at Six Flags so enjoyable that each member of the family will want to come back as soon as possible. To make this happen, we will richly enhance each park's environment -- expanding guest options while deepening their sense of security and satisfaction. We want each of our parks to be an island of fun."

Chuck Hendrix, 52, brings 35 years of theme park experience to the division. Hendrix has served in General Manager and Chief Operating Officer positions at theme parks in the United States, Mexico, Taiwan and China. He most recently served as Vice President and General Manager at Six Flags AstroWorld in Houston and has been a member of the Six Flags team for a total of 13 years.

 


 

 

Update 12/19/2005

The demolition continues.....

Diablo Falls, Dungeon Drop, Swat, The Kiddy Rides, The Diesel Train, Serial Thriller and Ultratwister are either gone or in the process of being removed to be sent to other Six Flags Parks.

The Fate of Greased Lightning, Batman: The Escape, Mayan MindBender, XLR8, Viper and Serpent is yet to be decided but it looks like they will be sold at an auction next month.  Texas Cyclone will be demolished.  So much for using these assets at other Six Flags parks.

I know I promised an Article about the closing, but to be honest I can't write one now being objective.  They all turn into an Anti-Burke rant that does not do the park justice.  Maybe later when we have more facts in.  I really want to see who is buying the property as that might shed some more light on this.

The decision to close Astroworld still makes no sense.  Look at these attendance rankings through the 3rd quarter:

1 Six Flags Great Adventure
2 Six Flags Great America
3 Six Flags Magic Mountain
4 Six Flags Over Texas
5 Six Flags Over Georgia
6 Six Flags New England
7 Six Flags Astroworld
8 Six Flags America
9 Six Flags Marine World
10 Six Flags Mexico
11 Six Flags St. Louis
12 Six Flags Fiesta Texas
13 Laronde
14 Six Flags Darien Lake
15 Six Flags Kentuck Kingdom
16 Great Escape
17 Six Flags New Orleans
18 Six Flags Elitch Gardens
19 Wyndot Lake
20 Frontier City

As You can see, Astroworld is number 7.  So much for under performing.  It just shows what a mistake it was to close this park.

The good news is Burke is out on his can with a 9.3 million dollar severance package.  Well. the 9 million is not great news, but he is out of running Six Flags.

In his place is Mark Shapiro, hand picked by Daniel Snyder, who won in his bid to take control of Six Flags.


 

11/10/2005

Below are a list of rides that never came to Astroworld.  They were all supposed to.  Budgets were created, additional land was bought, but the powers that be really made it tough for Astroworld.....

1.  Mr. Freeze - LIM Shuttle Loop located at Six Flags Over Texas (originally purchased for Astroworld.  Additional land was even purchased for the ride)

2.  Looping wooden rollercoaster - The first one in modern history, eventually became Son Of Beast at Kings Island (Premier was supposed to build it but lost the contract after not opening Mr. Freeze in time.  Premier took the idea to Paramount and we see what happened there.  The Astroworld version was to be much smaller.)

3 & 4.  CCI Wooden Coaster - Promised for 2 years.  Became Cheetah at Wild Adventure  (CCI bailed in 2000 claiming soil samples were not done in time, the truth was they were over committed.  They assumed 2001 was a go and even advertised it at the IAAPA trade show, but Six Flags killed the project and the coaster was modified and built in Wild Adventure)

5.  B&M Hypercoaster Something like Goliath that is being built at Six Flags Over Georgia or La Ronde in Canada.

6.  A new front gate and ride package for the 35th Anniversary.  This money went to Six Flags New Orleans when that management deal was reached.

So as you can see, if any of these things had happened, Astroworld's value would have been greater than the land.

But, that is a discussion for future weeks.  In the mean time, lets mourn what we lost.


 

Thank you to the Staff and Management of Astroworld, without you there would have never been "Playtime".

Thank you for everyone who supported this site.


 

10/31/2005

The Last Ride

I don't think I can put into words what I am feeling. I was the last person in line for the Texas Cyclone.  Yes, it was set up, but I was the last guest to stand in the queue and wait in line.  There was no one behind me.  The last ride was very emotional.  I love night rides on the Texas Cyclone and this was no exception.  Dawn put it best saying she was laughing and crying at the same time.   The ride was all to short.  The drops and the curves, the wind in my face and Zach riding beside me in the last seat of the last car, it couldn't be any other way.   After my last ride on Cyclone I could have gotten a couple of more rides with the employees but I wanted them to have their time. As I looked for Zach I found him by the fountain sobbing. I felt the same way.  Dawn and I decided that we would leave and walk out as a family.

As we walked out I thought of all the hours that I had spent at the park as an employee and a guest. I tried to memorize it all, the sounds, the smells and the sights. I said good-bye to the pyro cave under the bleachers where I spent so many hours.

Walking to the front gate was strangely quiet. It reminded me of all the times I was in the park during non-operating hours. It was so sad, but I was glad I had my family around so we could grieve together.

I took one last picture of main street and Zach rang the bell one last time.

We crossed the bridge and Zach rolled down the hill one last time.

I feel like part of me died that night. So many fun times. So many lessons about life learned. So many friends made. It just seemed so wrong that some entity that didn't even live in this town had the power to take it all away, to cause my friends, my family and myself all this pain.

So now it will be time to heal and put the loss behind me. I can't imagine that a day will go by that I won't remember the park and how special it was to me.

To everyone I ever worked with I say thank you with all my heart. To all those I rode the coasters with, thank you. To all those who had the patience to train me to drive roller coasters, Take river boats around and shoot off those great fireworks, Thank you.

And those who showed me what dignity was all about, everyone who stayed until the end, I love you all and will miss you more than you will know. Thank You for everything.

This last Bell ringing is for everybody who brought so much joy to so many.

My last View of Astroworld

 

 

 

What would Judge Hofheinz think of all this?

 

 

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