Sometimes it’s too hot to be amusing

Alfred "Pappy" Brunet
July 30, 2009
Joseph Henry Elkins
August 3, 2009

The temperature was 75 degrees in Hot Springs, Ark., at 10 a.m. on Friday morning. My family and I were there on vacation, and we were ready for some outdoor fun.

We searched through the town’s entertainment guide and discovered several activities at our disposal.

Visits to national parks and historic sites were vetoed by the kids – ranging from age 7 to 27 – and it was not until we stumbled upon a local amusement and water park that we all agreed. The name of the park was Magic Springs and Crystal Falls, and we arrived around 2 p.m.

All seemed well at first, until the 75-degree temperature was replaced with 95 degrees.

At that point, even the water park did little to provide relief as we spent more time in line at the water rides than actually basking in the pool of cool water.

We eventually grabbed a tube and floated on the lazy river, where we remained until the park’s 6 p.m. closing time.

We never made it to the amusement ride section – which stayed open until 8 p.m. – because the heat had exhausted all of us.

Amusement parks in the south are continuously plagued with extreme temperatures in the summer – temperatures that keep some customers away from ticket counters. Parks in southern coastal states must also contend with the threats of tropical storms and hurricanes.

Combined with the state of the current economy and the proliferation of alternative forms of entertainment, such as video games and the Internet, the amusement industry is under siege, and the effects are being felt across the south.

We were not surprised to discover over half of the amusement rides at Magic Springs and Crystal Falls were inoperable.

Six Flags Astroworld in Houston closed its gates in 2006, and Six Flags New Orleans never reopened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The industry is in decline.

However, one Baton Rouge-based company thinks it can buck the trend. Southern Star Amusement Inc. applied for $100 million in bonds Thursday to revive the shuttered Six Flags New Orleans theme park.

According to The Associated Press, Southern Star Amusement’s bond application claims the company will spend just under $114 million on the project, creating 1,650 construction jobs and 735 park jobs with an annual payroll of $17.2 million.

The application calls for construction to begin Aug. 1, with a completion date of Dec. 31, 2010.

In 2008, Southern Star Amusement submitted a $70 million plan to the city and Six Flags that called for adding a water park and doubling the number of rides. However, AP reports the company walked away from that plan after being unable to reach agreements with the city and Six Flags.

Whether the new plan becomes reality or not is unclear. The one thing that is clear is that sometimes it is just too hot for amusement parks to be amusing.