A theme park in New Orleans was battered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, leading to heavy flooding and damage to the rides. The park remained closed, the damage so extreme that the operators, Six Flags, chose not to fix it. Despite various attempts to redevelop the site, it remained abandoned and became a popular location for trespassing explorers.
Yet in the last few weeks, an agreement has finally been struck and it seems there is fresh hope for the site’s future.
Built on a 227-acre site in the eastern part of New Orleans, the theme park was submerged under six feet of floodwater for more than a month after Hurricane Katrina hit America’s south coast in August, 2005. When the floodwater subsided, the park was a shell of its former self: the rides smashed, the buildings stained and the site – once a picture of happiness and family fun – transformed into the scene of some fictional post-apocalyptic future.
Originally called Jazzland, the park had only opened in 2000. Its rides and attractions were geared around The Big Easy’s storied history, and different parts of the park were named after famous areas of the city, such as Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, and Cajun Country. It was difficult to get off the ground, but when the gates finally opened, the park was met by fanfare and Air Force jets flew overhead. The first season saw 1.1 million visitors.
By 2002, the developers had gone into bankruptcy. There was no waterpark and no shade, and theme park-goers struggled in New Orleans’ intense heat. The national powerhouse Six Flags swooped in to save the park, investing more money and signing a 75-year lease. It was rebranded as Six Flags New Orleans. After the destruction of Katrina, 80% of the park’s equipment and rides were destroyed and Six Flags made the decision not to reopen. The lease was terminated in 2009.
Since then, the park has seen little use. Numerous developers attempted to find a use for it, but the only purpose it served was as a filming location, featuring in famous movies such as Killer Joe, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Jurassic World.
Unofficially, the abandoned world also turned into a popular tourist attraction in its own right. For thrill-seekers, urban explorers and content creators, the dilapidated world of Jazzland was one of opportunity, with videos on YouTube amassing millions of views.
This is despite the fact that trespassing on the site is illegal and closely monitored. Abandoned America cited at least two instances of guns being drawn on people entering the park, and angry law enforcement is only one of the hazards awaiting people on the site. As wildlife has slowly reclaimed the site, with snakes, alligators and bores making it their own.
As of 2023, however, there is renewed hope for the site. Axios reported last month that plans to convert it into a “bustling $500 million complex with sports fields, waterparks, hotels, restaurants and shops” were going ahead.
Bayou Phoenix is the redevelopment company behind the project and told Axios last month that they were meeting with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) to negotiate a lease. NORA, the government agency in charge of the area, has already approved Bayou Phoenix’s grand plan.
Troy Henry, the company’s CEO, said they hoped to have everything built in three to four years. Specifics of the plan include indoor and outdoor water parks, two hotels, a manmade beach, as well as numerous sports fields, restaurants, studios and shops.
Brenda M. Breaux, NORA’s executive director, said: “The plan reflects careful consideration of the site’s unique history, while also embracing innovative ideas to create a vibrant and inclusive space that will contribute to the city’s future.”