I have long been obsessed with Hurricane Katrina. Everything about it fascinates me. There are many places in Louisiana and surrounding states that have been frozen in time from the moment Katrina struck. One of those places is Six Flags New Orleans, formerly known as Jazzland.
Jazzland opened in 2000 on a site that can only be described as a swamp. Here’s the view of the land between the parking lot and the road near one of the park entrances.
Jazzland was not as profitable as the property management company did not specialize in running parks of its size or type. In 2001, the lease was put up for sale and was purchased by Six Flags in March 2002 as a 75-year lease. The park retained its name as Jazzland for a year after the sale whilst Six Flags relocated rides from other theme parks to the site.
In 2003, Jazzland was upgraded and officially changed names to Six Flags New Orleans. In early 2005, Six Flags was planning to include a water park in the admission fee with an announcement of this change to be delivered at the end of August 2005. Oh the irony – Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans on August 29th, 2005, submerging the park in 1.8 m / 6 ft of water for over one month following the storm.
The last day the park operated was August 21st, 2005 and planned to reopen the weekend of August 27-28, however, with Katrina in the forecast, the weekend opening was canceled. In 2007, Six Flags determined it was too costly to rebuild the park and estimated that the loss of the park amounted to $32.5 million. Only a few rides were salvageable with the biggest being Batman which was refurbished and relocated to Six Flags Fiesta Texas (in San Antonio) and renamed Goliath.
Tessa and I arrived at the park from what we believe is a lesser-followed route. We were traveling west on I-10 and took exit 248. At the top of the exit ramp, we turned left and then we turned right on Michoud Blvd. The off-ramp from I-10 was littered with huge piles of furniture and other construction debris. It was obvious that this was a popular illegal dumping site but it was also obvious that it was not patrolled, regardless of the threatening signage of hefty fines.
As we approached Michoud Blvd, things got creepy. We were not sure how close or far we were from the park so we assumed that the open area was an overflow parking lot – which may or may not be true. There were 3-4 burned-out cars and more giant piles of illegally dumped rubbish lining Michoud Blvd. It was very eerie and I felt like we were on another planet.
If you squint and look hard in the middle of the photo above, you can see the two free-fall bungee swing pillars in the park.
We drove along Michoud Blvd for what felt like an eternity. It was like an apocalypse. We were creeped out being there but could also not stop staring. We kept driving. Slowly. Taking it all in. There was not another car or human in any direction.
Out our nowhere a housing development appeared and kids were hopping off school buses. I wondered how damaged those houses were after the storm and if the residents were scared of a storm of similar size.
We continued down Michoud Blvd and a few blocks later, we were at one of the park’s two entrances. We drove slowly, unsure if the security car was occupied or not.
The car was not occupied and had clearly been abandoned so we turned in and drove to the entrance and parked the car. My heart was racing a little bit and I was almost shaking because the site was so strange. I was also a little scared that an alligator was going to crawl out of the swamp. We were only a few feet from the parking attendant shack but a big metal fence stood between us and the greatest adventure of our lives.
I read that trespassers would be prosecuted but I really wanted to get inside the park. We spent about 10 minutes staring at the abandoned entrance and analyzing if, and how easily, I could slip under the fence.
As part of enhanced security measures, a metal pipe was installed below the metal fence to prevent people from “limbo’ing” under the fence but someone had cut the pipe. There were two places where there was about one foot of space between the fence and the concrete where I would have been able to shimmy through but I was scared.
Ultimately I decided trespassing was not worth it and as I reached to take one more picture, I noticed the headlight of a car behind a bush just beyond the parking attendant shack. I hadn’t noticed the car prior and thought perhaps it was just another abandoned car or perhaps the place was fucking haunted and it was a ghost car.
I snapped my photo and we began walking back to the car. I turned around one last time and I saw the car driving toward the parking attendant shack. It was security. I would have been caught almost immediately if I had entered the park.
We followed Lake Forest Blvd on our way out where we saw the “Closed for storm” sign in the photo at the beginning of this blog and then I was able to snap a couple of photos of the park from I-10 thanks to my excellent chauffeur who slowed to a crawl on the highway for me!
What’s next for Abandoned Jazzland?
In 2008, another amusement park company proposed takeover of the site but only with the help of Six Flags, specifically requesting Six Flags to remove existing structures from the site. Later that year, Southern Star Amusement Inc. announced that they would no longer be taking over the site. Southern Star Amusement Inc. had another go at acquiring the site in early 2009 but again fell through.
In 2009, Six Flags filed for bankruptcy and a few months later, the City of New Orleans sued Six Flags $3 million for early lease termination. Around the same time of the lawsuit, it was announced that the park would be redeveloped as a Nickelodeon-branded park. Those plans fell through for undocumented reasons.
In 2011, Southern Star Amusement Inc. had a third go at acquiring the site and announced a phased redevelopment given the economic climate. It is unclear what happened with those plans aside from them falling through.
Seriously this site is fucking doomed!
In late 2011, the City of New Orleans requested proposals for the site and a few ideas that came forward were an outlet mall, power plant, and theme park. Seriously? A power plant? In a known flood zone? All of these ideas are terrible but a power plant?
In March 2012, the City of New Orleans gave the green light for the upscale outlet mall (“Jazzland Outlet Mall”) and a “green” park. A year later in March 2013, plans were abruptly called off.
In 2016, a group (which included the ex-head of Southern Star Amusement Inc.) came together to form “Dreamlanding Festival Park”. The plan was to buy and rebuild the park pending city approval. Those plans stated that the park would open in 2019, however, the group is still pending city approval as far as the internet tubes tell me.
What’s my take on Jazzland? Nothing will ever be built on this site and the existing structures should be removed to prevent any environmental harm. Also, it is the creepiest place I have ever visited in my life.