Jazzland Park has created one of two proposals to redevelop the entire 224-acre lot located in the stretch of land off Interstate 10 in New Orleans East, including the site of the abandoned Six Flags Theme Park. The organization has recently hit a bump in the road, but has no plans to stop fighting to bring Jazzland back to life.
The City of New Orleans issued a new request for proposals (RFP) for all redevelopment proposals for the site, Jazzland Park prepared to go before the review committee, alongside another proposal from Transformation Village, on April 1st.
Both proposals were dismissed due to a lack of financial substance to move forward. Leader of the meeting Alan Philipson, chairman of the Industrial Development Board, was concerned that neither proposal came with any cash commitment.
Tonya Pope, President of TPC-NOLA, the entertainment venue development and operations company for Jazzland Park, said the meeting certainly did not go the way they would have liked.
Pope said they came fully prepared with information regarding revenue and milestones of the project and was surprised with the response from the committee.
Phillipson asked Jazzland how the park could survive when it depends on the water park for revenues. “ I have absolutely no idea where that question came from as only revenues generated by Jazzland theme park were included in our proposal,” said Pope. She said they explained to the committee that water parks get approximately 25% of the attendance compared to sister dry parks. The capacity for water-related rides are much lower than dry rides such as carousels or roller coasters. “It’s very relevant information,” continued Pope.
For the committee to fully understand the proposal, they must understand the industry, according to Pope.
Their head of operations, who is also responsible for opening the Fiesta Texas theme park in San Antonio, was present at the meeting but the committee declined to ask him any further questions regarding the redevelopment.
The proposal includes a $50 million initial phase to reconstruct the amusement park, and includes plans for a second, $20 million, phase with a music-themed water park and newly developed retail outlets further down the line.
The Jazzland theme park will have four lands: The Quarter, Sportsman’s Paradise, The Beach, and The Bayou. Each will offer multiple attractions that will appeal to visitors.
Pope and Rob Steen, a representative for the Netherlands-based amusement ride manufacturer, Vekoma Rides Manufacturing, visited the site last week. Pope said the steel coasters, which are manufactured by Vekoma, are in good shape and can be restored. “They need a lot of new pieces and parts, and Rob had some good ideas for upgrades that we can make at the same time for the one we plan to keep so that we create a new ride experience.” The plan is for the former Jester to be turned into Driskill Mountain, complete with a “mountain” on top, and the Zydeco Scream coaster to be transformed into a ride less common. “We plan to have that one removed and the space designated for a future addition, tentatively a new indoor coaster.”
A detailed 18-month construction schedule and financial and documentation of costs related to equipment and repairs was provided. The committee told the Jazzland team that they wanted different documentation, although Pope said they are still “fuzzy on exactly what they want.” They are working on getting the documentation to the committee as soon as possible so the proposal can move forward in a timely manner.
Pope says main differentiator between Jazzland and Transformation Village is the stage of development. “Transformation Village is more of an idea, where Jazzland is a matured business plan ready to begin work.”
The Jazzland team also has a great deal of experience in the themed entertainment industry and has done their homework. Through their research, it became clear that a project of this scale is feasible because the team found that past operations were always profitable. Although there are rumors, legends and various perceptions of the park, an average of 800,000 guests per year frequented the site and did not have an issue with profits.
Pope said she wants Jazzland to be something the community can really be proud of. “We published our proposal publicly on our website so that we could remain transparent through the process.”