Sunday, June 25, 2006

Six Flags Sucks Balls

You knew this was coming, right? If you were remotely forward-thinking a few years back, you were deeply concerned that Six Flags was buying every park on the planet and then rampantly spending itself into massive debt throwing up tons of new rides everywhere there was a foot of gravel free. Oh, sure, it's not like it was all bad...we got ourselves a few of those nice Superman rides because of all the dough SF was slinging around, and we got a lot of enjoyment out of that. But we knew it couldn't last; down the line, that spending spree was going to bite Six Flags, and by means of the "shit rolling downhill" mechanism, its customers, in their respective asses.

We'd been uneasy about this for years, but then the signs grew more alarming this offseason, as new CEO Mark Shapiro toured each park and listed the ways each sucked and/or wasn't drawing enough cash in. Did you think all that would happen was that your admission ticket prices and parking would get jacked through the roof? Silly wabbits. Each park was being cased to determine how much money it would make if it were unloaded. The sudden closing of Astroworld and the sale (as of the end of 2006) of the Wyandot Lake and Frontier City properties were not so much a warning shot across the bow as a big, fat, steel-gloved cockpunch for customers across the world.

If you had half a brain, you just knew that Six Flags was, any second now, going to dump half its properties in a massive fire sale, leaving classic rides to the wrecking ball and stranding local customers without beloved summer amusements they might have been experiencing for years or even decades. And okay, coaster enthusiasts would be deprived of credits to notch. We won't pretend part of our interest isn't selfish.

Or did you really not expect this? Boy, you're stupid, no offense. Well, here it is. The fire sale, that is. Six Flags is actively taking bids from anyone and everyone in order to rid itself of Six Flags Darien Lake, Six Flags Waterworld, Six Flags Elitch Gardens, Wild Waves and Enchanted Village, Six Flags Splashtown, and Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor. Enjoy 'em while they last, kids. The official Six Flags announcement is clear that the chain does not give the slightest shit what anyone does with the properties, meaning these parks are almost all as good as dead. Six Flags might save some of the rides and distribute them elsewhere, some of the parks could be bought by others who want to run them as they are or in reduced form, or real estate developers could just take properties wholesale and bulldoze them so rich assholes can have a lakeside view and a tax credit.

Here's what we think is going to happen. We honestly think Magic Mountain is too big of a draw in the L.A. market to get pulverized. Not that it couldn't get plowed into the stone age, and not that we'll be completely shocked if it does, but our gut feeling is that someone will try to purchase the place and run it roughly as is. The rest? See ya. It was already appalling that Astroworld got the axe with almost no warning; now picture the worst-case scenario in this big sale and imagine the lines of strip malls in place of Superman: The Ride of Steel and the beautiful lakeside paths at Darien Lake Park. Or a wrecking ball bashing in the side of Timberhawk in anticipation of a new, exclusive, gated community.

Yeah, some of the rides from these parks might survive, but remember what happened with Astroworld? Easily transportable, cost-effective rides were saved and stored, while the others were demolished without a second thought. Hello, Batman: the Escape, a terrible but easily shipped and reassembled stand-up. Buh-bye, Texas Cyclone, unique (if no longer world-class) wood coaster that would have cost anything to save. You might get Darien Lake's Superman at another park next season. Then again, it might be smelted into girders for that mini-mall. And don't think the fact that you love it makes a shit's worth of difference to Six Flags.

If this wasn't already obvious, the Six Flags announcement is our Site O' the Weak, and a more deserving SOW there never was. Screw you, Six Flags.