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Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Answers To DISNEYLAND: Six Flags over Texas

The most successful “answer” to DISNEYLAND was arguably Six Flags over Texas. Inspired by a trip to DISNEYLAND, Six Flags founder Angus Wynne decided that his home state of Texas needed a theme park. Proud of his state, Wynne decreed that his park would be themed to the six different governments that Texas had been controlled by- Spain, Mexico, France, the Texas Republic, the Confederacy and the United States. Thus his park would have the obvious name- “Texas Under Six Flags”. Fearing that Texans would be offended at the idea of Texas being “under” anything, the name was changed to Six Flags Over Texas.

The park opened in 1961 in Arlington, Texas to great success. It would never surpass DISNEYLAND in quality or profitability, but it was successful enough to convince Angus Wynne to go head to head with Walt Disney- at the 1964 World’s Fair. Wynne took on the task of privately funding the Texas Pavilion at the World’s Fair with the goal of attracting the fair’s visitors to Texas- and Six Flags. The ambitious project would ruin Mr. Wynne. The Texas Pavilion faced construction delays, went over budget and was eclipsed by other attractions at the fair, including those constructed by Walt Disney. Wynne was forced to sell off his theme park and would remain uninvolved with it until he passed away.

The park’s new owner was the Pennsylvania Railroad, which wanted to diversify its holdings. It built two other Six Flags parks- Six Flags Over Mid-America and Six Flags Over Georgia. The company soon soured on the idea of building new theme parks; the process of designing, developing, building and opening new parks tied up capital for years before the company could begin selling tickets. It decided to expand its empire by buying other regional theme parks that were already up and running. Many of the original developers of these theme parks saw them as a way to make fast money and hadn’t realized that theme parks need constant investment to keep customers coming in the gates. Six Flags could snap them up and operate them more efficiently as part of a chain.

While Six Flags would go through many corporate hands, including those of WarnerMedia and even declare bankruptcy a few times, it- and its original park- survive as an independent entity today.