September 13, 2005
RIP, AstroWorld

The venerable amusement park AstroWorld will close for good at the end of this season.

[A]fter 37 years, the landmark Six Flags AstroWorld theme park will close at the end of this season, the victim of rising land values that overshadow its worth as an entertainment venue.

"While attendance has gone down, the value of the land has gone up substantially," said Jim Dannhauser, chief financial officer of Oklahoma City-based Six Flags.


Jeff Peden, a director at Cushman and Wakefield, the real estate company that will market the land, said there is no asking price for the 109-acre site, but he estimated that it will sell for $95 million to $145 million.

"We've seen properties close to here go for $25 to $35 per square foot," said Peden.

"Kirby and 610, that's a great address in Houston," said Todd Edmonds, senior vice president of the real estate company Colliers International.

Something of that size will probably become a mixed-use development, including multifamily housing, retail and office, said Edmonds, who described the property as one of the largest contiguous pieces of land near the Medical Center.

That's what I'd have assumed. It's a good location for new housing, as it's right by the South Fannin light rail stop for an easy commute into town, and there's a real need for some retail space as well. My preference would be for it to include some smaller places to eat, places with quick in-and-out service, since all that's in the area now are two Pappas restaurants and a Joe's Crab Shack, none of which are appealing to me as a cheap and convenient lunch place. We'll see what we get.

This month, AstroWorld is open Saturday and Sunday. From Oct. 7 -30, it will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The final day of operation is Oct. 30, the last day of Fright Fest.

Attendance has suffered at parks nationally as these amusement centers compete with other forms of entertainment, such as television and the Internet, said James Zoltak, editor of Amusement Business.

Shutting down the park will not hurt the city's economy much because many of the seasonal jobs paid little more than minimum wage, he said.

The bigger loss, he said, is that theme parks offer people a sense of nostalgia, with grandparents taking their grandchildren to their favorite rides.

"You lose something that has been part of the city's culture and psyche for a number of years," Zoltak said.

I'm not a native, but I don't have the same attachment to AstroWorld that I do to some of Houston's other landmarks. I'll miss the roller coasters, and I'm sorry Olivia won't get to experience the place, but for whatever the reason, I'm not too upset about it. I've gone maybe 20 times since I moved to Houston (we had a season pass a couple of years ago), and it has felt like it was past its prime. Maybe I was already over it, I don't know. I do hope it has a good sendoff, because it does deserve that.

UPDATE: Tory thinks the last chapter has not yet been written.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 13, 2005 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

It never ceases to amaze me how the Six Flags chain advertises their roller coasters as the biggest thrill rides of all time, yet the one that is the most respected and feared is a nearly 80 year old ride sitting in a rough part of Brooklyn. (For those of you who don't know, I'm referring to the Cyclone in Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY)

The strange thing is that the baby-boomers seem to have better memories of amusement parks than ours. Ask older New Yorkers about something like Palisades Park and you'll get a discussion about summer fun from 40-50-60 years ago. (I won't mention Rockaway's Playland (no longer in business), the Bronx's Freedomland (an early 1960's park) or Rye's Playland (still around, but not what it once was.

Man, I'm getting old. :-)

Posted by: William Hughes on September 13, 2005 9:13 AM

Noooooooooooooooooo. I can't believe I'll never ride the Cyclone again!!! I'm pregnant so I can't go for one last hurrah! This sux0r! I know you think its past its prime but ever since I was born I've been going there it seems like. The Sky Screamer and Greased Lightening were like gods to me when I was little. I'm so sad :( My kids won't go on these rides I've always loved.

Posted by: Katie on September 13, 2005 10:53 AM

(My Spidey sense thinks the indoor riverwalk hotel concept will be combined with a ride or two, perhaps in New York New York casino style rollercoaster presence. Puncture the dome a few times to run the track through it?)

Posted by: Laurence Simon on September 13, 2005 1:41 PM

I'm definitely going to have to try to make it down there one last time - I'll be sad to see it go. Many high school memories for me there, since I had a season pass back then. *sigh*

(Don't tell Katie, but I rode a roller coaster at least 5-6 times while pregnant with Jason, with absolutely no ill side-effects. I like European doctors so much more than the lawsuit phobic ones in the US. My doctor said it was perfectly ok, the baby is protected and it wasn't a problem at all.)

Posted by: Christine on September 14, 2005 12:25 AM

Astroword was col

Posted by: Joe on September 14, 2005 5:20 PM

i really cant believe that Astroworld is really gone.... when i first discovered the news i was very disturbed, it all seems like a dream that i want to wake out of. i never knew what people meant by ''life has a way of bringing you surprises, that you arent ready for most of the time,'' now i know.

Posted by: vanessa maddox on December 23, 2005 1:18 PM

I was there in 1968 for the first time. It was magical! My memories are still vivid. My own children have their memories of fun times there. But, the Astroworld they remember was very different than the one I knew as a child.The one I remember had this wonderful huge orange ferriswheel type thing with two big clawlike things{hard to explain, but if you were there then you know what I mean},and a big jack-o-lantern that every kid had to walk through.Astro world will forever hold a place in my heart. I'm sorry that the grandchildren I hope to someday have will never feel it's magic.

Posted by: Leslie Rsbslais on June 2, 2006 10:35 PM