Four months after a Delaware bankruptcy court turned over responsibility for the former Six Flags theme park in eastern New Orleans to City Hall, the site's future remains unclear. Beyond making plans to hire a security firm to watch over the park, the outgoing mayoral administration has announced no public plans for the property.
A spokesman for the mayor's office said the site "remains a critical redevelopment priority for the city of New Orleans," but he did not respond to questions about plans for demolition or maintenance on the site or whether the city has been approached by or was entertaining potential buyers or lessors interested in the site or its equipment. With time winding down in Mayor Ray Nagin's administration, it is becoming less likely that any activity will happen at the site until Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu takes the reins at City Hall next month.
Six Flags terminated its lease with the city in December while undergoing bankruptcy reorganization. The termination agreement called for Six Flags to make a $3 million cash payment to the city. The company also must give New Orleans 25 percent of its net Katrina-related insurance proceeds for the site if the settlement exceeds $65 million.
"It's a highly valuable piece of real estate," City Council President Arnie Fielkow said. "It's imperative that the next administration work with private industry and the council with trying to identify a catalytic project that will spur positive development at that site. We cannot afford as a city to leave it as a blighted property."
The most recent action on the park, which never reopened after Hurricane Katrina, came in February when the City Council agreed to appropriate $240,000 to hire a security firm to patrol the site. The city must conduct a "competitive search" process to choose the security contractor. A firm has not been hired yet.
James Ross, a spokesman for the city, said New Orleans "is preparing the solicitation for a security contractor following the necessary appropriation by the City Council."
Last summer's buzz about plans for redeveloping the tourist attraction, once heralded as a catalyst for economic development in eastern New Orleans, has quieted.
New Orleans, however, still owes several million dollars on a $25.3 million loan it used to build the park through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 108 loan program. The first loan for $15 million was taken out in 1995 to build the original Jazzland Theme Park that preceded Six Flags. A second loan was taken out in 1998 when Six Flags took over the site.
Payments on the loan had been $2.4 million a year until 2017, with the city and Six Flags each paying a portion. When a judge proceeding over the bankruptcy of Six Flags agreed last year to terminate the company's lease and turn the property over to New Orleans, the city alone became responsible for that payment, which was reduced in August as part of a refinancing deal to take advantage of lower interest rates. Six Flags' outstanding lease agreement had been a barrier to plans to redevelop the site. But that is no longer an issue, and there still are no public proposals for the site.
"We need, as leaders, to start identifying some realistic and alternate opportunities for the Six Flags site," Fielkow said. Fielkow has been a champion of a developing a sports complex at the site, but he is careful to stress that that project, Big League Dreams, does not have to go on the site. Fielkow said at least two other sites in eastern New Orleans, including one adjacent to Six Flags, could become home to the complex. "The Big League Dreams project is still very viable, and it does not in any way need to fit on the Six Flags site. Finding the land for Big League Dreams is not an obstacle," Fielkow said. "What is challenging is ultimately finding the financial resources to build Big League Dreams." The Big League Dreams sports complex would require a $20 million to $25 million investment from the city and perhaps the state and federal governments. Fielkow said he has talked with Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu about the project and plans to discuss it with him further after he takes office. In the meantime, Fielkow is working with state legislators to complete a feasibility study to determine whether the project would be a good fit in New Orleans. Financing for the study, about $100,000, was allocated during last year's legislative session, Sen. Ann Duplessis said. But the money has not been authorized. She expects the authorization to come within the next two weeks. The study could be completed by the end of the summer. "As with anything with the state, they don't move as fast as we would like them to move to finalize authorization for the use of the money," Duplessis said.
Southern Star Amusement, the company that made the biggest splash in its bid to control the park when it was linked for a few months to children's brand Nickelodeon, is still interested in purchasing the site, the company's president Danny Rogers said. "We're waiting for the new administration, quite frankly," Rogers said. "We really are still interested in it. We really hope the new administration will help us with it." Southern Star proposed spending more than $150 million to redevelop the park. In addition to renovating existing rides, the company's plan had called for adding new rides and several water-based attractions. In August, Nickelodeon, a division of media giant Viacom, agreed to lend its name, marketing strength and cachet to the park through a licensing agreement. But the company severed ties with Southern Star three months later shortly after Southern Star failed in its bid to request $100 million in Hurricane Katrina business development bonds from the State Bond Commission.
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
A Minnesota developer seeking to restore the former Six Flags Theme Park in eastern New Orleans has filed an application with the Industrial Development Board requesting preliminary approval of up to $200 million in bonds for the project.
In its application, 3 Wise Men Entertainment, Inc. said it wants the bonds to restore existing infrastructure and equipment in the former Six Flags park, which has not reopened since being damaged by flooding in August 2005.
The application will be reviewed by the IDB at its April 20 meeting. If the request is approved, the application will be considered by the State Bond Commission. Bond commission approval would allow the company to begin shopping for investors.
3 Wise Men Entertainment says it will restore "infrastructure, sewer, water, other utilities, building structures and existing park rides," among other things on the 150-acre site. The company's proposal also calls for the development of a "resort with a water park and additional theme rides."
According to the application, construction on the site would begin May 25 and conclude in late September 2011. The park would open Oct. 1, 2011 and produce 1,000 permanent full time jobs. The total projected budget for the project is $202 million.
3 Wise Men Entertainment became registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State's Office Thursday. The company's primary officer is listed as AB Moten Corporation, a Minnesota real estate development firm, whose chief executive officer Joseph Smith Jr., is listed as the applicant on the IDB application. A telephone call to Smith went unreturned Thursday.
Although an overview of the application also says that the park "will be re-branded into a Nickelodeon Universe Theme park," a spokeswoman for the cable television giant and children's brand said the company has no plans to lend its name to the venture.
"We have no relationship with them and have no plans to develop with them," said Joanna Roses, a spokeswoman for Nickelodeon. "We have never met with them."
Roses said Nickelodeon has no plans to develop a theme park in New Orleans.
Nickelodeon, a division of the media giant Viacom, had agreed last year to lend its name, marketing strength and cachet to the park through a licensing agreement with Southern Star Amusement, another company seeking to develop it. But the parties parted ways in November because Southern Star failed to meet contractual requirements and deadlines, Nickelodeon said in a statement at the time.
Southern Star Amusement had been approved for $100 million in Hurricane Katrina business development bonds by the Industrial Development Board, but withdrew its request to the State Bond Commission after failing to post $500,000, or .5 percent amount of its bond request, with the state treasury before the development board met.
I can tell you this, that property is not valuable, nor is it an attractive piece of land for opening something else. It's in an open area with nothing of any significance close by. There should never be any other theme park to open here, it just won't work. If any of the rides can be salvaged, Dixie Landin in Baton Rouge should be the recipient. They should just work something out, and send whatever possible over there, because at least that place could survive.
This is just absolutely ridiculous.
2007 TPR Midwest Trip,2008 TPR East Coast Trip,2009 TPR Deep South Trip
This needs to stop. I agree with stingrock23. The NO East area is beyond unstable. Sure, it's *somewhat* back. But in no way to support a theme park or resort complex. And the park sitting there idly whilst waiting for the support to be built is a total waste. If there's a park in NOLA, it would work best on Pontchartrain (maybe) or on the Westbank of the city somewhere. Otherwise, move anything salvageable over to BB/DL. They could use some spare Vekoma parts anytime of the year.
And PS, I caught wind from I can't remember who that Walmart has been communicating with NOEast representatives about building a store there. Could be good, ultimately bad. Ehhhhhhhh, c'est la vie.
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