The Lands of Screams and Dreams

1955 Walt Disney changes the history of outdoor entertainment with the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. Although amusement parks had been around for decades (tracing their history to the World's Fairs of the 1800s and the European "pleasure gardens" that existed from the 1600s to the 180ss), by the 1940s, most of the classic amusement parks of the United States had either closed or become locations for cheap entertainment and crime. Disneyland was the first "theme park," and rather than focusing on thrill rides, roller coasters and carnival-type midways, Disneyland used themed "lands" that created complimentary environments rather than competitive environments. Although very suburban in location and concept, America (which was rapidly becoming a suburban nation) wasn't quite sure what to make of the park at first - but they knew it was a place that they should visit thanks to television. Disneyland's eventual success prompted others to try this new theme formula.  
(For more information on the formation of Disneyland, please see the Disneyland Timeline.)

1957-1960 - At least four well-known attempts to capitalize on the success of Disneyland by other investors are put forth:
Magic Mountain (Denver, 1957) - no relation to Magic Mountain in Los Angeles
Pacific Ocean Park (Santa Monica, 1958) - popular, but financially unsuccessful
Pleasure Island (Boston, 1959) - fails as a theme park and turns to traditional rides
Freedomland (Bronx, 1960) - loses millions
All of these parks attempt high-theme/low-thrill concepts like Disneyland, but all lack that "magic" which makes Disneyland work. All ultimately fail, losing millions for their investors. The Disney magic is less actual magic and more a solid, well-known set of films (both live-action and animated) that come-to-life for guests in the park. It's one of the first examples of corporate synergy (before the word is invented), and it proves extremely successful. 

1959 Like many who saw the success of Disneyland as a great way to make money, Texas real estate developer, Angus Wynne was no exception. Wynne formed the Great Southwest Corporation, and along with some investors from New York, began preliminary planning for a theme park. The park was designed by Randall Duell, an architect that also had been a set designer for MGM. Theatrics and staging are essential to successful theme park operation, and a set design background helps give a theme parks that "looks-real-but-it's-not" type feel that guests seem to enjoy. Duell would go on to design most of the regional theme parks in the US for Six Flags and other corporations such as Marriott and Taft. 

1960 - All things a-go, construction for Six Flags Over Texas begins at the Dallas suburb of Arlington, which is located mid-way between Dallas and Fort Worth. Like Disneyland (and unlike some of the other failed parks during the 1957-1960 years), Six Flags Over Texas is located in a growing suburban area near freeways. Although it hadn't been overly-analyzed by this point, suburban mentality, spatial considerations and aesthetic values will play strongly into the success or non-success of a theme park. 

1961 - Six Flags Over Texas opens to the public at a cost of just over $3 million dollars. Compared to Disneyland's $17.5 million, Pacific Ocean Park's $16 million or Freedomland's $33 million, this amount is hardly Texas-sized. But Angus Wynne had different ambitions. Disneyland, through its use of television promotion and films which had been know for over a generation by this point and were known nation-wide, attracted people from entire country. None of the other parks had that type of nation-wide appeal, yet they based their success on nation-wide budgets and nation-wide attendance figures. Angus Wynne, perhaps because he was clever or perhaps because he was Texas-arrogant, wanted his park to be for the people of Texas, not the entire country. He wouldn't need nation-wide attendance to support his park, and he created the budget to match. The concept also wasn't a universal one, but one that was very much Texas-bred. It was a historical theme, using the six sovereign nations that had at one time or another claimed Texas (or at least part of what would become Texas): Spain, France, Mexico, the Confederacy (CSA), Texas (which for a brief period was its own country) and the United States. Rather than spend extra millions on creating atmosphere like Disneyland did, Six Flags Over Texas used its theme areas less as recreations of movie sets or actual time-periods, and more as a clever way to divide the park up and make it more manageable for guests. 
The Six Flags Over Texas concept would later be recognized as the "regional theme park" distinguished from the "destination theme park" that Disneyland had become. Regional theme parks attract approximately two million guests per year and operate on a seasonal basis (and are sometimes called "seasonal theme parks"). This means that they are open daily during the summer (when kids are not in school), weekends in the spring and fall, and closed during the winter. During the winter, new attractions are built, and regional theme parks need to add a new ride at least every other year (destination theme parks often wait five years or so before adding a new attraction). Most theme parks in the United States have followed the regional theme park concept, with the exceptions being the other Disney parks (such as Epcot Center or the Magic Kingdom) and the Universal Studios theme parks. 
Six Flags Over Texas used the pay-one-price entry policy (pioneered for theme parks by Pacific Ocean Park). Adults entered for $2.75, and children for $2.25 in 1961. Six Flags created excellent family value.
Main attractions in Six Flags Over Texas somewhat mimicked the family-oriented attractions at Disneyland. Guests chose from La Salle's Riverboat Adventure (Jungle Cruise), the Happy Motoring Freeway (Tomorrowland Autopia), the Astro-Lift (Skyway), Skull Island (Tom Sawyer Island), Six Flags Railroad (Disneyland Railroad), Indian Village (Indian Village), Burro Ride (Pack Mules) and several performers in gun fights. There was the Sidewinder, a "mad mouse" type roller coaster (by Herschell) in the USA section, that provided family-sized thrills to match Disneyland's Matterhorn, but in a much less expensive way. Six Flags Over Texas also featured the Dancing Waters display at the main entrance gate.
Six Flags Over Texas's first season lasted only 45 days, but the park attracted over 500,000 guests.

1962 - A second freeway is added to the popular Happy Motoring Freeway in the USA section, and as a consequence, Sidewinder is moved to the Mexico section. Sidewinder is re-named La Cucaracha. Car rides are a big hit in early theme parks, and the Chaparral Antique Cars are added to the Texas section. Casa Magnetica (tilt house) is added to Spain and Skull Island is expanded. 
Attendance for this year is 1.2 million guests.

1963 - Boomtown, a section inspired by the oil boomtowns of Texas, opens this year with an antique carousel. A very strange ride, the Sky Hook, opens this year. This large "Y" shaped ride had two "baskets" that would carry guests from the ground to a hundred feet in the air for a bird's-eye view of the park. Sky Hook would later be moved to Six Flags Over Georgia. A second train station is added to Boomtown. The most important addition to Six Flags Over Texas (SFOT) this year is El Asseradero (the saw mill), the world's first log flume ride. Arrow Development Company which had done the Matterhorn for Disneyland, updated the old shoot-the-chutes amusement park ride of the early 1900s. Arrow took the concept from the history of logging in the US where water troughs (flumes) were used to float felled trees from higher elevations to lower ones. At the end of the day, daring lumberjacks would sometimes ride the last log down the flume. Arrow created a family ride that was essentially a water roller coaster. It had a conveyor belt lift that took riders in plastic "logs" to a flume section of the ride where they would wind through the surrounding trees. Then, the shoot-the-chutes portion of the ride kicked in, and guests were sent down a steep hill for a splash. It cooled people off in the Texas heat and was thrilling enough for the kids, but mild enough for mom and dad. It was a major hit, and the log flume would become a theme park staple. El Asseradero is significant in that it was a unique ride to SFOT and not something that was copied from Disneyland.

1964 - Spee-Lunker's Cave is added to the CSA section. This "dark ride" becomes another family favorite. La Cucaracha is removed.

1965 - Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation begins buying stock of Great Southwest Corporation, owners of Six Flags. El Sombrero is added to Mexico. This is a Chance "trabant" ride common in many amusement parks and fairs that is themed to look like a sombrero. While most of Disneyland's attractions are originals, Six Flags will begin to use "off-the-shelf" rides from manufacturers. These rides, while lacking uniqueness, are much less expensive and help to further define the concept of the regional theme park - the rides are basically the same from one regional theme park to the next. 
Based on the regional success of SFOT, plans are begun for Six Flags Over Georgia, which will be the company's second theme park. The Great Southwest Corporation purchases 3000 acres of land outside of Atlanta. 

1966 - Arrow's innovative tubular steel track that was developed for the Matterhorn at Disneyland (1959) is incorporated into the regional theme park as the Runaway (Run-A-Way) Mine Train. Like the log flume, this family ride will become a theme park staple. Arrow worked with Six Flags to create an exciting coaster ride that wouldn't cost nearly as much as the Matterhorn, but would be interesting. The Runaway Mine Train consisted mostly of tight turns and small hills, ending in a slightly larger drop that went into a tunnel.

1967 - SFOT attendance is two million for this year. Spindletop (a Chance "rotor" or "floor drop" ride) is added. Six Flags Over Georgia (SFOG) opens in June. The park is the first time a company has built two parks, therefore making Six Flags the inventors of the chain park concept. The park costs $12 million, which makes it almost the size of SFOT, and the six flags are Britain, Spain, the Confederacy (CSA), France, USA and Georgia. SFOG opens with the Log Jamboree log flume and Dahlonega Mine Train (runaway mine train). Dahlonega gets its theme from a short-lived gold rush in the hills north of Atlanta in the town of Dahlonega. This was the country's first gold rush. A small version of the mine train, the Yahoola Hooler (later re-named the Mini-Mine Train) opens as a children's coaster. Opening the flume and mine train in Georgia helps to establish those attractions as signature Six Flags rides. Other important attractions are Jean Ribaut's Riverboat Adventure (like La Salle's Riverboat Adventure) and Tales of the Okefenokee (dark ride).

1968 - SFOT adds a second flume to El Asseradero. The Sky Hook is removed from Boomtown. Southern Palace replaces the park's amphitheatre and sets the standard for live shows at Six Flags parks (SFOG had opened with an enclosed theatre, the Crystal Pistol). SFOG adds a new section called Lickskillet. A second log flume is added to Log Jamboree, easily the most popular ride at both parks.

1969 - Six Flags Theme Parks, a new company, is formed to operate the two parks, which are each owned separately by Six Flags Over Texas, LP and Six Flags Over Georgia, LP. The odd Sky Hook ride is moved to SFOG to become the landmark of the park. SFOT doesn't miss it however. This year they add the park's icon, a 300 ft tall Oil Derrick designed by INTAMIN (INTernational AMusement INstallations) of Switzerland. This landmark is substantially higher than anything at Disneyland and truly sets Six Flags apart. SFOT also adds its own version of the Mini-Mine Train. Angus Wynne sells Six Flags to a limited partnership. 

1971 - Pennsylvania Central Railroad (a merger between Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation and other railroads) begins management of Six Flags. 
An INTAMIN "speedracer" coaster, Big Bend, is added to SFOT. This is still a family type coaster. In an unusual move for a theme park, SFOG adds a back entrance in the Lickskillet section. Six Flags Over Mid-America (SFOMA - later renamed Six Flags St. Louis - SFSL), opens outside of St. Louis. The park costs $55 million, and is the third and final original Six Flags park. Six Flags has created a "triangle of family entertainment" between the cities of Dallas/Ft. Worth, Atlanta and St. Louis. The six flags at this park are Spain, England, France and USA. Two state flags, Missouri and Illinois are used as sections to round out the six and also making note of the closeness to Illinois, which will be part of this regional theme park's attendance. The park features Six Flags standards like the River King (Run Away) Mine Train (two "adult" tracks rather than one adult ride and one "kiddie" mine train), the Hoo Hoo Log Flume (both sides open with the park rather than opening one later), Injun Joe's Cave (dark ride), Mississippi Adventure (the La Salle's Riverboat of this park), and other various rides like the drunken barrel and antique cars. Kings Island (not owned by Six Flags, but owned by Taft Broadcasting, which featured the Hanna-Barbera cartoons), outside of Cincinnati, opens the Racer, a large, classic wooden roller coaster designed by John Allen. The theme park industry holds its breath as no theme park has tried to build a large roller coaster for thrill-ride seekers. Walt Disney World Vacation Kingdom opens in Florida, with the Magic Kingdom theme park as its centerpiece.

1972 - Goodtime Square added to SFOT as a new section next to Boomtown. SFOG adds the Riverview Carousel, purchased from Riverview Park in Chicago. This Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel is still considered the finest example of a classic carousel in the country. 

1973 - PennRec Company, The Penn Orlando Company and The Penn Arlington Company (subsidiaries of Pennsylvania Central Railroad) are created to run Great Adventure (not yet owned by Six Flags) and Six Flags Over Texas theme parks, and Stars Hall of Fame in Orlando. SFOG breaks the family coaster tradition for Six Flags and opens the Great American Scream Machine designed by famed coaster designer, John Allen. Inspired by the Racer, also designed by John Allen of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, Six Flags decides to break all records and build the world's highest, longest and fastest roller coaster. The 100ft high (actually 105 ft high) Great American Scream Machine is a great big hit with fans and anchors the new Great Southern States Exposition themed area. The beautiful ride, located over a lake in the back of the park, is one of the country's most photographed roller coasters. At this point in history, steel roller coasters were still considered mild, family attractions, so the Great American Scream Machine is a wooden ride. (Steel coasters wouldn't shake that image until Arrow Development's Corkscrew at Knott's Berry Farm in 1975, which managed to go upside-down.)

1975 - Goodtime Hollow kiddie area is added to SFOMA. Six Flags purchases the struggling Astroworld (SFAW) in Houston. This is the first time Six Flags has bought a pre-existing park in hopes of making it profitable. Six Flags will use this strategy again in the future rather than building new parks from scratch. SFOT attendance has totaled 27 million guests by this point. 

1976 - SFOT introduces a remake of the old Coney Island parachute tower, which was initially used to train US paratroopers. This updated ride, designed by INTAMIN, was called the Texas Chute Out, and it stood 200ft tall. Not to be outdone, SFOG also opens a parachute tower called the Great Gasp that stands 225ft tall. The two parachute towers immediately become Six Flags icons with their colorful parachutes luring guests in from the freeway. SFOMA goes a slighty different route this year and takes a cue from its sister park, and opens the Screamin' Eagle for America's Bicentennial. This wooden coaster becomes the world's largest at 110ft high (initially advertised as being 120 ft high), and speeds riders through the Ozark foothills at the back of the park. Also designed by John Allen (who had been in retirement until the Racer), the Screamin' Eagle would be Allen's final coaster. Allen's design philosophy was that roller coasters were as theatrically contrived as any Broadway play, and he once said, "You don't need a degree in engineering to design roller coasters, you need a degree in psychology." It's all about created a good show from the ground and one the ride, and it couldn't have been better put. The Anton Schwarzkopf-designed, INTAMIN-built Great American Revolution opens in Magic Mountain outside of Los Angeles (not yet owned by Six Flags). While the Corkscrew was the first modern roller coaster to go upside-down, the Great American Revolution uses a vertical loop and not corkscrew loops. It's a much larger ride and much more dramatic.

1977- INTAMIN (Schwarzkopf) and Six Flags team up again and introduce the theme park world to the Wheelie (SFOG), Highland Fling (SFOMA) and the Spinnaker (SFOT). This triple shot is great for INTAMIN (Six Flags will gain bargaining power in the future as it can offer several locations for a ride). This is generically called the "enterprise," and it's really a revved up version of the Ferris wheel  that starts rotating horizontally, and then pivots to a vertical position, spinning riders upside-down in a loop. During this time period, Six Flags is decidedly leading the regional theme park concept (and other regional theme parks are following) away from only family rides to parks with what are essentially themed amusement park rides. Some sources begin to call these parks "themed amusement parks" instead of "regional theme parks." Either way, they have become decidedly different than the theme park concept created at Disneyland. Six Flags purchases another struggling park, Great Adventure and Wild Animal Safari (SFGAd) midway between New York City and Philadelphia. 

1978 - Six Flags asks Schwarzkopf to outdo his Revolution and build them two large coasters for the Texas and Georgia parks. Schwarzkopf delivers to very different and original designs. SFOT gets the double-looped Shockwave, which features two back-to-back loops that were notorious for causing riders to black out with the back-to-back g's. SFOG, not to be outdone by its older sister, advertises the triple-looped Mind Bender. At the time, no coaster on earth had three loops, and both rides prove hugely successful, and SFOT hits a record attendance of 2.78 million. (In actuality, the Mind Bender is a double-loop ride, but the loops are not back-to-back, and the ride is built in a gully that saves the last loop until the end over the ride - it's an outstanding effect. The so-called third loop is actually a very steeply over-banked, 360-degree turn that is tilted at 45 degrees.) SFOMA doesn't get a huge Schwarzkopf looper, but instead opens the tallest of the three Six Flags parachute towers, Sky Chuter at 250ft. Three people are killed as a gondola falls from the Sky-Way ride at SFOMA. Magic Mountain (not yet owned by Six Flags) opens Colossus, the world's largest duel-track coaster. This wooden monster thrills guests at the park and also stars in two movies this year - Roller Coaster (the Revolution also stars) and Phantom of the Park, starring 70s rock band Kiss

1979 - Angus Wynne, Six Flags founder, dies. Big Bend is removed from SFOT. Six Flags buys Magic Mountain (SFMM) in Southern California. The park is still struggling to make a profit, and Six Flags calls in Randall Duell to work on redesigning parts of the park to make them more profitable. The park ends up with a circular-route all the way around, which helps dramatically to alleviate dead-ends and get people moving past shops and restaurants to spend money.

1980 - Take the justice seat. SFOT finally gets its wooden roller coaster, Judge Roy Scream. It's not as large as the Great American Scream Machine or Screamin' Eagle. Jolly Rogers Island themed area opens at SFOG. The Mind Bender is now part of that section, and the INTAMIN Flying Dutchman swinging ship is added. The Buccaneer swinging ship opens at SFOMA.

1981 - Conquistador swinging ship opens at SFOT. Tales of the Okefenokee at SFOG is remodeled and re-opens at The Monster Plantation. The dark ride becomes a family favorite. SFOMA gets its Schwarzkopf/INTAMIN looper, the Jet Scream. Jet Scream is substantially smaller than Mind Bender or Shockwave, and has only one loop. 

1982 - Pennsylvania Central Railroad sells Six Flags to Bally Manufacturing Corporation
SFOT gets the world's first "freefall" ride designed by INTAMIN. The Texas Cliffhanger is a first generation freefall ride and pulls riders up a tower, pushes them out a few feet, and then drops them down the "L" shaped tower. It's an instant hit, although the ride capacity is very low, making lines extremely long. SFOG replaces Jean Ribaut's Riverboat Adventure with INTAMIN's Thunder River, a free-floating raft ride where riders sit in circular, 12-passenger rafts as they float down a man-made river through rapids and waterfalls.

1983 - Roaring Rapids raft ride is added to SFOT in place of La Salle's Riverboat Adventure. Thunder River opens at SFOMA, replacing Mississippi Riverboat Adventure. Free Fall is added to SFOG. Gary Story becomes GM of Frontier City mini-theme park in Oklahoma City.

1984 - Six Flags buys the successful Marriott's Great America (SFGAm) park outside of Chicago. Six Flags buys Atlantis waterpark in Hollywood, FL and calls the park Six Flags Atlantis. This is one of the constant source of rumors of a Six Flags park in Florida (the other being Stars Hall of Fame wax museum in Orlando that was owned for awhile by Six Flags parent, Pennsylvania Central Railroad). Six Flags opens the doomed Autoworld in Flint, MI. Six Flags also begins an agreement with Looney Tunes characters. Soon Looney Tunes Lands (kiddie areas) and Looney Tunes characters will show up in most Six Flags parks. Marriott has decided to leave the theme park industry and stick with food service and hotels (theme parks, always difficult to keep profitable, prove too difficult for Marriott to manage). Marriott's other Great America park near San Jose, is first sold to the City of San Jose, and then to Paramount Parks. The Great Six Flags Air Racer (an INTAMIN super air racer ride) is added to both SFOT and SFOG. SFOMA modified the Arrow Development mine train ride and adds trains with stand-up cars. This is the first year guests can ride a roller coaster standing up, and Kings Island near Cincinnati also opens a stand-up roller coaster (although Kings Island's is designed by Togo, Inc. of Japan and called King Cobra). The SFOMA modified mine train now become Rail Blazer (the other track on River King Mine Train is not modified). A few months after opening, a woman is killed on Rail Blazer (and shortly after, a man is killed on King Cobra). In these early stand-up coasters, there was no "seat" that went between riders' legs to keep them in a standing position should they accidentally lose their footing. In the Rail Blazer accident, the woman lost her footing and slipped and the over-the-shoulder harness caught her neck and promptly broke it as the ride flew around a turn. Rail Blazer was returned to a sit-down mine train for the beginning of the next season. 

1985 - Autoworld closes in Flint. Six Flags opens another doomed, industrial-themed indoor property, Power Plant, in Baltimore. Like Autoworld, Power Plant is part indoor theme park and part museum and actually includes many of the theme park-ish elements museums will begin to copy nation-wide. The basic storyline connects the Power Plant (located in an actual former power plant in downtown Baltimore) with the fictitious inventor, Phineas T. Flagg. However, the flashy 80s "me generation" isn't ready for the attractions, both located in run-down cities (if you are familiar with the "tourism bubble" concept, these attracts were early attempts to start such activity, but didn't work). Incidentally, the Power Plant building eventually became the country's first ESPNZone. INTAMIN Looping Starship is added to SFOG, but removed after one year (it will magically reappear three years later). SFOT introduces "Holiday in the Park" for the Christmas season. Proves a successful effort by a regional theme park to open during the winter. The idea is based on Kings Island's popular "Winterfest," in which only a limited section of the park is open and rides are closed. But there are shows, egg nog, Christmas music and ice-skating. 

1986 - INTAMIN's Avalanche Bobsled is added to SFOT. This is an update of the old "Flying Turns" roller coaster from the 1920s. This ride did not have trains that rode on tracks, but instead rolled down a trough like a bobsled run (they were on wheels and the run was made of wood, not ice). The Avalanche Bobsled repeated this, although the ride sounded in concept much more exciting than it actually was, and only a few parks across the country asked INTAMIN for one. INTAMIN was more successful with the Splashwater Falls addition to SFOG, an update of the old shoot-the-chutes ride. Unlike Arrow Developent's log flume which took riders through a meandering trough before the drop, Splashwater Falls didn't waste any time. The boats were larger and didn't look like logs, and the ride simply went up a hill, around a tiny curve, and then down a steep drop for a huge splash. Best on a hot day. 52 million guests have visted SFOT. 

1987 - Wesray Capital Corporation buys Six Flags from Bally. Splashwater Falls is added to SFOT.

1988 - Z Force, an INTAMIN "space diver" coaster is relocated from Six Flags Great America to SFOG. A very odd ride, it will eventually move to Six Flags Magic Mountain as Flashback for the 1991 season. It will be the only space diver coaster ever built as riders continually complain of neck and back pain after the ride (rumors abound that the ride is actually an early work of Bolliger and Mabillard, who began working for INTAMIN before going out on their own). Jet Scream is removed from SFOMA and reopens next season at Six Flags Astroworld as Viper. 

1989 - Power Plant closes. Six Flags Atlantis is sold, and is eventually destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 - Atlantis back into the water, quite appropriate. SFOMA add Ninja, a roller coaster by Vekoma of the Netherlands. Vekoma designs its own rides, but uses patents gotten by Arrow Development, which accounts for the visual similarity of track type and train appearance between products of the two companies. Ninja had previously operated during Expo '86 in Vancouver. Although it has four inversions, it's not a terribly exciting ride. Flashback, a Vekoma "boomerang" is added to SFOT (this is not the same Flashback that is currently operating at SFMM). Dahlonega Mine Train at SFOG goes down for rehab, and comes out better than ever. It is the second oldest mine train coaster in the world. Kieran Burke becomes CEO and President of Tierco Group, Inc. of Oklahoma City.

1990 - The Georgia Cyclone by Summers/Dinn (and modeled after the famous Cyclone at Coney Island), opens at SFOG. One side of the Log Jamboree log flume (SFOG) is removed this season. The Texas Giant (also by Summers/Dinn) opens at SFOT as an enormous wooden roller coaster. At 143 ft high, it becomes the highest wooden roller coaster in the world. Over three million people visit the park this year, making it a record season. The Screamin' Eagle at SFOMA gets new trains. SFMM opens Viper, a coaster by Arrow Development that has seven inversions - more than any other coaster in the world. Tierco purchases Frontier City.

1991 - Six Flags is close to financial ruin, and Time Warner buys one half of Six Flags Corporation. The other half is bought by Blackstone Group and Wertheim Schroder. 
Tidal Wave
shoot-the-chutes opens at SFOMA. Spee-lunkler's Cave closes at SFOT. 

1992 - Yosemite Sam opens at SFOT as the new cave ride. Ninja looping roller coaster with five inversions (by Vekoma) is added to SFOG. SFGAm opens the world's first "inverted" roller coaster, Batman: The Ride. The Bolliger and Mabillard ride proves an instant sensation. Riders sit in cars on trains suspended under the track. Unlike Arrow's "suspended" coaster created a decade earlier, the B&M cars are held rigidly to the train which allows them to do loops and corkscrews and all sorts of wild airplane maneuvers. Gary Story becomes Executive VP of Tierco. 

1993 - Time Warner buys second half of Six Flags.
SFOMA suffers an identity crisis and starts a multi-year process of re-naming some of its sections, and some of them more than once. England becomes Great Britain and then Britannia. USA becomes USA/Movietown and will become Time Warner Studios which will become Warner Bros. Backlot. France becomes Choteau's Market. Missouri become 1904 World's Fair and part of the Illinois section becomes Gateway to the West. This will culminate in 1996 with the entire park changing it's name to Six Flags St. Louis. (Six Flags Over Georgia had actually experimented with this same concept in the mid 1980s, calling itself Six Flags Atlanta on brochures, but never officially changing its name in publications.) Batman: The Ride opens at SFGAd. 

1994 - Tierco Group changes its name to Premier Parks. The company now owns White Water Bay waterpark (Oklahoma) and Wild World Amusement Park (Maryland)

1995 - Time Warner, now in financial trouble, sells Six Flags to Boston Ventures. Six Flags purchases Wet 'n Wild in Arlington, TX (re-named Six Flags Hurricane Harbor). Batman: The Ride (by Swiss firm Bolliger and Mabillard) opens at SFOMA. The inverted roller coaster is starting to become a tradition at Six Flags parks with each one taking a slightly different spin on the color-scheme of dark blue, black and grey. SFOMA's version is the only one of the Batman series to be all black. All of the Batmans are identical except this one, which is a mirror image of all the others, turning to the right after the first lift instead of the left. Viper opens at SFOG. This Scharzkopf/INTAMIN "shuttle loop" coaster had operated for years at Six Flags Great America (and Marriott's Great America before that) as the Tidal Wave

1996 - Runaway Mountain, enclosed roller coaster by Premier Rides (no relation to Premier Parks), opens at SFOT. To avoid confusion, the Run Away Mine Train's name is changed to Mine Train. Six Flags Over Mid-America is re-named Six Flags St. Louis (SFSL). Six Flags purchases Fiesta Texas theme park in San Antonio, making it the eighth Six Flags park.

1997 - Jolly Rogers Island at SFOG is re-named Gotham City. Batman: The Ride is the centerpiece of the new section, and the nearby Mind Bender is repainted green and covered with question marks to look like the Riddler. Continuing the DC Comics theme, Mr Freeze is built at SFSL, although because of trouble with the linear induction motor (LIM) launching system, the coaster does not open. Spain at SFSL is re-themed to DC Comics Plaza. SFMM opens Superman: The Escape, the first thrill ride to go 400ft high and 100mph. The ride operates on the new linear synchronous motor technology (LSM) that uses magnets to propel the car from zero to 100mph in under six seconds. The INTAMIN- designed ride takes nine-months to finally achieve the 100mph mark. Many coaster purists do not consider Superman a roller coaster, but call it a freefall ride. SFMM, however, lists it as a roller coaster so that it is tied for the park with the most coasters with Cedar Point in Ohio. The competition between the two parks is clear to everyone, and each year will see additions, one trying to out-do the other.

1998 - Premier Parks, a company that is totally unrelated to Premier Rides, buys Six Flags management company and many of the Six Flags parks themselves. Premier Parks has spent several years acquiring several small amusement parks around the country such as Elitch Gardens in Denver, Marine World Africa USA in Vallejo, CA and Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville. The move to suddenly buy Six Flags, which was actually larger than Premier, surprised the industry, and Premier would operate for years in debt, never recovering from the Six Flags purchase. Mr. Freeze by Premier Rides opens this year and is literally a blast. Even with the technical difficulties, Six Flags puts enough faith in Premier to order another LIM coaster, and Mr. Freeze also opens in SFOT this year. SFOG loses the back entrance, and the front entrance is re-designed. SFMM opens Riddler's Revenge, the world's largest stand-up coaster, taking the title from Mantis at Cedar Point. The beautifully designed, green coaster comes with a techno-music soundtrack heard throughout the queue. It's also the first Six Flags ride to post girth restrictions on riders as some larger park guests wait through the line only to realize that they are too large to fit in the trains. 
Premier Parks now also owns the Funtime Inc. parks, Geauga Lake, Wyandot Lake and Darien Lake, all older traditional amusement parks. Premier has also purchased Elitch Gardens, Marine World Africa USA, Kentucky Kingdom, Riverside Amusement Park, Old Indiana Fun Park, Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom and both Waterworld USA parks. The Sacramento Waterworld park will lead to constant rumors that Six Flags is building a theme park in Sacramento. Internationally, Premier has bought the Walibi Family Parks (five smaller theme parks in different European countries). Premier is on an out-of-control buying spree (they also buy thirteen rides from Gaylord Entertainment's closing Opryland park in Nashville), but by year's end they are the fourth largest amusement park company in the world. 
Premier owns many smaller parks and Six Flags theme parks tend to be much larger. However, the company wants to capitalize on the Six Flags brand name and begins re-branding its parks as Six Flags parks. They promise Six Flags and stockholders that substantial upgrades will be made so as to not diminish the quality of the Six Flags brand - this practice will eventually get them in trouble as millions (sometimes $40 million per park, per year) will more than drain their profits and put them hundreds of millions in debt. Kentucky Kingdom, the largest of the Premier Parks, is re-branded Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. At the end of the year, four more parks (Darien Lake, Marine World/Africa USA, Adventure World [changed to Six Flags America] and Elitch Gardens) will be re-branded in prep for a marketing blitz in 1999. 

1999 - Hurricane Harbor waterpark opens at SFSL. Many of the Six Flags parks will have accompanying waterparks. Gotham City opens at SFOT, and Batman: The Ride makes its debut. Six Flags, benefiting from economies of scale, has built several of these by now, but Six Flags Over Texas is the first one to be bright yellow. An accident (no-fatal) on the Great Six Flags Air Racer at SFOG spooks SFOT, and they remove the ride at the end of the season (it will be removed from SFOG in 2000). SFOG opens the Georgia Scorcher, a Bolliger and Mabillard stand-up coaster. Stand-up coasters never quite become as popular as the sit-down or inverted coasters, although Six Flags will build a few in its many parks. Premier Park is showing strain at making money. Six Flags Marine World, for example, in the last three years has received over $60 million in upgrades and is still substantially smaller than a standard Six Flags park. Six Flags re-brands four more parks (Six Flags Mexico, Six Flags Holland [one of the Walibi Family parks], Six Flags Ohio [Geauga Lake] and Six Flags New England [Riverside Amusement Park]). With so many re-branded parks, Premier can't keep up. Not to be stopped, however, Premier goes on to buy Warner Bros. Movie World (Germany), Reino Aventura (Mexico - it's the Six Flags Mexico park), Splashdown (Houston) and White Water (Atlanta). In a lesson on branding to any marketing 101 student, it's clear now that the Six Flags brand has been greatly compromised and watered-down by the actions of Premier Parks. The re-branding does spark a huge boost in attendance at most of the re-branded parks, and Six Flags Marine World sets a record for the largest jump in attendance of any amusement/theme park in US history (attendance figures recorded by Amusement Business Magazine).

2000 - Premier Parks, in a smart corporate move, changes its name to Six Flags, Inc. based on the fact that the Six Flags brand is much stronger nation-wide than the Premier brand. The Boss, a giant Custom Coasters International (CCI) wooden coaster opens at SFSL and becomes the park's second wooden coaster. CCI's president is Denise Dinn, daughter of famed coaster designer Charlie Dinn, who designed SFOT's Texas Giant, Cedar Point's Mean Streak and the Beast and Son of Beast for Kings Island to name a few. SFMM opens Goliath, a hypercoaster (over 200ft high) by Giovanola of Switzerland). 

2001 - A coaster fan rides The Boss at SFSL for 100 consecutive days, setting a new world's record for coaster riding endurance. Titan, a hypercoaster by Swiss-based Giovanola (like Bolliger and Mabillard, the founders originally worked for INTAMIN) based closely on Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain, opens at SFOT. Aracnophobia, an INTAMIN stand-up gyro drop tower opens at SFOG. INTAMIN has built several different types of drop towers, and this is the first one to allow riders to stand. The Schwarzkopf/INTAMIN shuttle loop, Viper, is removed at the end of the season (it will show up as Greezed Lightnin' in 2003 at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom). Deja Vu, a giant interted boomerang by Vekoma, is built at SFOG, but doesn't open until the end of the season in September. Six Flags re-brands another Walibi Family park to Six Flags Belgium. Six Flags buys SeaWorld Ohio (located right next to the former Geauga Lake) and re-brands the two parks as Six Flags Worlds of Adventure. Six Flags buys Le Ronde in Montreal. Premier's buying spree is out of control and since the late 1990s, the company has offered two public offerings to raise money. Now stockholders begin to worry about the overall management of the company. Total attendance at all Six Flags properties is 46 million, making them only behind Disney in attendance. However, per-park, their attendance is very weak at some properties. Criticism arises from fans and stockholders that Premier/Six Flags Inc. is putting much more effort into the re-branded parks than in the company's larger parks. Corporate responds and major spending pushes are announced for Six Flags Great Adventure, Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Magic Mountain.

2002 - The comics theme continues, and Superman - Ultimate Flight opens at SFOG. This is the first Bolliger and Mabillard (B&M) "flying coaster" built in the US. Unlike the Vekoma-designed "lying coaster" (Stealth at Paramount's Great America), riders do not begin lying on their back. The trains on the B&M coaster load like standard inverted coaster trains, and then lift into flying position so that riders ride facing the ground. Six Flags buys Jazzland in New Orleans and opens Warner Bros. Movie World in Spain. Attendance at Six Flags parks drops again as marketing/new building costs at parks prohibit the extensive spending of the last few years. X, designed by Arrow Dynamics (formerly Arrow Development) opens at SFMM after a year of delays. This new concept, called a "fourth dimension" coaster, has seats that can spin guests in 360 degree loops as the trains move around the track. The maintenance costs on X are outrageous, and every Wednesday the ride is shut down to re-weld sections of the track together (the torque created by the twenty-foot wide trains puts incredible stress on the structure). 

2003 - Superman: Tower of Power opens at SFOT. It's a 315ft tall drop tower by S&S Sports of USA. The Screamin' Eagle at SFSL gets some much-need attention, and the first drop is re-tracked for this year. Jazzland is re-branded as Six Flags New Orleans. Gary Story resigns as COO (due to illness) and is replaced by John Odum. Park attendance decreases again this year.

2004 - Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, begins to place an interest in Six Flags, Inc. He starts buying lots of stock to help them with their financial trouble, but also wants to control the direction of the company. At SFSL, re-tracking continues on the Screamin' Eagle. Sections of The Boss are also re-tracked at places that were said to be rough by riders. Six Flags Inc. is in trouble and sells Six Flags Worlds of Adventure to Cedar Fair, the giant amusement park company that owns Cedar Point, Valleyfair and Knott's Berry Farm and others. Cedar Fair re-names the park Geauga Lake, it's original name. It ponders what to do with the side of the park that was formerly SeaWord. Six Flags sells its international parks (Six Flags Belgium, Aqualibi, Six Flags Holland, Warner Bros. Movie World Spain, Warner Bros. Movie World Germany and four other European parks).

2005 - Dan Snyder gains control of Six Flags (out with John Odum). He brings in Mark Shapiro, formerly of the Disney-owned ESPN, to be second in command. Re-tracking is finished on Screamin' Eagle. At SFOG, Georgia Cyclone begins re-tracking. The Great Gasp and Looping Starship are removed at the end of the season. Hurricane Katrina damages Six Flags New Orleans, which does not open for 2006. The future of the park is uncertain, although Six Flags stops short of saying it will abandon and/or sell the park. Six Flags Astroworld is sold for real estate and closes in October. Waterworld USA parks in Concord, CA and Sacramento become Six Flags Waterworld. SplashTown in Texas is re-branded Six Flags SplashTown. Six Flags calls off deal to buy Six Flags Marine World (although it may still do so before 2007 when its management contract ends). Theme parks are often owned by one company and managed by another, and Six Flags owns most of its parks, but some, like Marine World and the Waterworld parks, are simply managed by the company. SFGAd opens the world's highest and fastest roller coaster, Kingda Ka by INTAMIN. Kingda Ka tops out at 456ft and launches riders to 128mph in under four seconds. 

2006 - Six Flags turns 45! The celebration is taking place nation-wide at Six Flags parks, but is based at the original park in Texas. Snyder and Shapiro make it clear that Six Flags needs a turn-around. Several projects are already in the works, but in general, they begin to put more emphasis on customer service and family atmosphere. The teen-heavy thrill rides are now secondary to the new strategy (parents with small kids spend more money overall than teens visiting the park without their parents). Ticket prices are increased to help discourage teens, and more Warner Bros. characters are bought into the parks for kids and families. Shapiro announces that at least six of the company's thirty properties might be sold, including Magic Mountain, one of the company's most visited parks. (The reasons for the Magic Mountain sale are reported to be based largely on Magic Mountain's strong teen/thrill ride focus and because it's sitting on some incredibly valuable real estate in the Santa Clarita Valley.) Los Angeles County makes a public statement that it wants to work with Six Flags to keep Magic Mountain as a theme park.
SFMM opens Tatsu, the world's largest flying coaster by Bolliger and Mabillard. Tatsu is a departure from the recent practice at Six Flags of simply building large coasters in areas that were once parking lot. Parking lot construction is easy, but unattractive. Tatsu is a terrain coaster, custom built to follow the hills and dips of the landscape around SFMM's tower. SFOG opens Goliath, a hyper coaster by Bolliger and Mabillard. This huge ride exits the park and zooms over the entry plaza and across the entry road. Since building Goliath and Titan, Giovanola has folded, but the B&M hyper coaster is a good substitute for SFOG. The trademark four-abreast seating on B&M coasters makes it decidedly different from the Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain. A man dies of a heart attack moments after exiting Goliath at SFOG in July. The death receives extra media coverage in that a week earlier a man died in a similar fashion on Gwazi in Busch Gardens Africa (Tampa Bay, FL) and less than a month earlier, a boy died on the Rock N Roller Coaster at Disney/MGM Studios. Ride safety is once again called into question, and a new push is started for some sort of federal regulation of theme park rides. SFSL opens Superman: Tower of Power. This one is a drop tower by INTAMIN, not S&S like in Texas. Six Flags declines to re-new its contract with Waterworld in Sacramento, and the park is set to close at the end of the season (new ownership will keep the park open however). Six Flags is still in desperate financial trouble.

2007 - Six Flags Marine World once again gets a name change to become Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Six Flags Magic Mountain, long rumored to up for sale, is confirmed to remain a Six Flags theme park - at least for the short term. The giant thrill ride park has been noted for having as many roller coasters as Cedar Point. However, in 2007, Magic Mountain will dismantle Flashback and Psyclone to make way for new expansions. Six Flags does sell six of its parks (including Elitch Gardens and Darien Lake) in an effort to reduce its $2.2 billion debt (the parks sell for $312 million). A strange accident severs the feet of a young girl on Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom's Intamin drop tower. Intamin claims that Six Flags has never ordered replacement cables for the ride although they recommend that the cables be replaced every season. Six Flags' strategy for improving guest satisfaction appears to be working as July hits the highest guest satisfaction scores ever for the company.