This is a place I’ve been anticipating getting into for a while, the abandoned Six Flags theme park in New Orleans, also known as Jazzland. Hurricane Katrina made short work of this family fun spot back at the end of August 2005 and since then it’s just been wasting away while mother nature slowly starts to reclaim what’s rightfully hers.
She’s hard like that.
It was first opened under the name Jazzland back in 2000, but sometime in 2003 Six Flags purchased it, made some upgrades, added a few rides and renamed it Six Flags New Orleans. It ran as such until its last day of operation on August 21, 2005 when they closed to add a few more features, with plans of re-opening on August 27. But then, when Hurricane Katrina was forecast, all of that was canceled in anticipation of the impending storm. It was gonna be a big one. When I looked at any channel on TV all shows were canceled and it was the news, the Mayor was all over the place telling us to ‘GET OUT, GET OUT NOW!”, so I did.
The part of New Orleans it’s located in, New Orleans East, is in the Ninth Ward, ( the place you’d always hear about in those old No Limit Master P. songs, yea that’s the one ) a low lying area with a 2 meter basin around it that was badly hit by the hurricane and flood waters brought in with the monstrous storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain. At approximately 8 am central time on August 29 the levees were breached in New Orleans and flooded the East and a other areas of the city. Because the pumps failed in the park, the nasty corroded flood water just sat there for over a month, in some areas with depths of four to seven feet, and could not drain out because the two meter high levee basically turned it into a bowl. Lake Pontchartrain is well know for being very brackish and contaminated, and now the park was too. Here is an aerial photo from two weeks after the storm hit.
This extensive exposure of saltwater destroyed all of the smaller rides and up to eighty percent of the buildings. As far as I know only one of the larger rides was salvageable, The Batman. About a year later Six Flags declared the park to be a total loss and because it was too expensive to repair with an asset loss of 32.5 million they would not attempt it. They tried to break their 75 year lease with the city but our then Mayor, Ray Nagin aka the village idiot, insisted on holding them accountable and demanded they rebuild. Of course that never happened, and this is how it looks now.
When I first drove up to the location, at the front entrance I noticed a hole in the “security fence” about big enough for a car to fit through, but there was no way my SUV would. Just as I was backing up to turn around and find another way in, a small car came out of the hole and turned on to the main road I was taking, I guess I wasn’t the only one planning on exploring zombieland today, I thought to myself. So I made my way around to the back entrance, the Bus and RV entrance it was called, and BOOM, wide open!
The small car turned in behind me and I saw a few more scattered throughout the enormous parking lot, which was comforting to know that I wouldn’t be the only one heading to the big house if the cops came. I got into the park and was just as excited as I would imagine a ten year old boy would’ve been going for the first time back when it was open, looking around, not knowing which ride to hit up first.
Everything was covered in shitty graffiti, there was hardly any I would consider art, but it did add to nuked, post apocalyptic look that I love so much and find fascinating.
Walking past some of the prize booths I kept expecting to see a gremlin pop up wearing a carny apron and hat, holding a handful of darts for me to throw at balloons tacked to the wall and attempt to win that poorly made stuffed animal to give to the girl. It would be slightly burned, ripped with stuffing hanging out and probably missing an eye – wait, is that weird? Maybe I watch too much TV.
My reason for seeking out places like this is because even after they’re destroyed, forgotten and abandoned, I think they still have a story to tell, and I want to know it. It is creepy walking around most of these locations, it’s quiet… sometimes too quiet and you hear the wind blow causing loose pieces of sheet metal to creak, that has become a familiar and almost comforting sound to me now.
There has been quite a few failed attempts set for the condemned park, plans such as another theme park, a Nickelodeon park, a water park, and Jazzland even tried to re-open it but was shut down by the city, who currently are planning on building an outlet mall there… seriously, this will fail so fast given the location.
It was a great experience, and definitely one of the most memorable places I have ever photographed. But after about four hours and with my battery at 6% I’d walked the entire park, I figured it was time to call it a day. I could have easily made another pass through but I might be pushing it with not getting caught, and no one want’s to go to Orleans Parish Prison. The last time I tried to go security stopped me as soon as I entered through the gates, they were filming something, a movie, there were cranes, trucks and trailers everywhere. I’d heard about a few movies that were being shot there recently, a new Percy Jackson movie, the new Planet Of The Apes film, and some Nicolas Cage disaster. After I did a little research I found out it was booked up by film studios well through 2014, so it definitely won’t be getting demolished any time soon. Good, I need another trip before it’s gone.
Until next time Zombieland…