Friday, April 24, 2009

Another Thorn in Six Flags' Side

© New Orleans Business / Frank Aymami
As if Mark Shapiro didn't have enough to worry about already, it now appears that the city of New Orleans is preparing to sue Six Flags for their failure to reopen and operate the long lost Six Flags New Orleans property, which has been shuttered since Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast back in 2005. This article from Forbes outlines the sequence of events which has taken place this week between Six Flags and the city. Although the two parties have been in talks for quite some time, apparently New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has decided that enough is enough and he made a trip to New York this week to tell Shapiro as much. City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields has called Six Flags' unwillingness to reopen the park "totally unacceptable", citing various economic factors.

But both parties acknowledge that Six Flags has stayed current on its lease payments for the land, so does the city really have any ground to stand on? I guess it all comes down to the fine print. Mark Shapiro has also pointed out that back in 2007, Six Flags offered to pay the city of New Orleans more than $14 million (essentially the full cost of the lease), waive all of its claims to city-owned land, and turn over the 86 acres owned by Six Flags to the city to do as they pleased with it. Needless to say that offer was rejected, and here we are.

There's no denying that the trail of destruction left by Hurricane Katrina was unfortunate and tragic, and I'm sure there are many people who would love to see Jazzland/Six Flags New Orleans restored to its former glory. But I can't help but think that the bad economy was the straw that broke the camel's back in this case, and Six Flags is now being made a scapegoat. Surely the New Orleans city officials can't possibly be expecting a company teetering on the brink of bankruptcy to revitalize their entire local economy, right? I guess we'll just have to watch this one play out and hope a settlement can be reached that is agreeable to all parties.