Six Flags dumps Oklahoma City HQ, moves to NYC

January 27, 2006, 11:02 PM · Who had January 27 in the pool?

In a move that should surprise no one who does not count "Boomer Sooner" among his favorite songs, Dan Snyder's Six Flags today announced that it was pulling its headquarters out of Oklahoma City. The company's new brass, including CEO Mark Shapiro, will continue to call New York home. To add to the snub, Six Flags also announced that it will close its Oklahoma theme and water parks, Frontier City and White Water Bay. (Six Flags late last year closed Six Flags Astroworld in Houston.)

The company's press release said:

"These moves mark further efforts in the company's strategy to streamline operations and focus on major market parks which have the most opportunity for growth.

"'We continue to evaluate every asset in the Six Flags portfolio with a mission of improving shareholder value,' said Mark Shapiro, Six Flags President and CEO. 'We're beginning a drive to implement operational strategies that will help reduce debt load and strengthen our brand.'"

Today's entry will now engage in baseless speculation and blatant rumor-mongering simply for the purpose of your weekend entertainment. So in that spirit let's translate the press statement:

Say, goodbye, Lake George, N.Y.'s Great Escape, Columbus, Ohio's Wyandot Lake, Sacramento's Six Flags Waterworld and Six Flags New Orleans.

You're on thin ice, Springfield, Mass.'s Six Flags New England, Buffalo, N.Y.'s Darien Lake and Louisville, Ky.'s Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.

With 10 parks out of the way, the company would presumably would be able to better concentrate its capital investment amoungs the 11 remaining U.S. theme park complexes. (Plus Montreal's La Ronde and Six Flags Mexico, assuming that the company wants to remain in these non-U.S. North American major markets.) Or, maybe, even to fund new major-market acquisitions.

After all, wouldn't Six Flags rather be in, oh, say, Cincinnati than Louisville? Toronto than Montreal? San Jose rather than Vallejo? And to pick up a park in Charlotte, N.C.? Gee, I wonder how that could happen....

Replies (2)

January 29, 2006 at 10:40 AM · The last time I heard some corporate nutcase use that many buzzwords per square inch, it spelled doom for the Commercial Avionics unit at Boeing, and it also heralded their death-spiral from a true aircraft BUILDER to little more than an assembler of aircraft-class Heathkits.

Shapiro sounds like your typical corporate MBA type: Rather than creating the best product or service possible, and simply letting profits follow as a result, he's just out to turn Six Flags into a money factory, and to blazes with anyone or anything that gets in the way of his much-vaunted goal of "shareholder value."

Or, to put it more simply, "Profit at ANY cost!" Talk about self-defeating...

At the risk of sounding harsh, though, I would not mind seeing Six Flags Marine World get rid of what little animal population they have left, and go completely over to a ride-based economy, as it were. When a park chain's CEO becomes that worried about The Bottom Line, I get a queasy feeling in my guts about the long-term quality of the care given to any park's animal population, especially the high-cost critters like marine mammals.

If Shapiro is that desperate to cut costs, I would hope one of the ways he does so is to ship SFMW's animal population off to REAL oceanariums and zoos, places that would be fully committed and prepared to consider their long-term health first, and the cost of providing it second.

Keep the peace(es).

January 29, 2006 at 12:35 PM · The only park I could see staying on the list is Great Escape. Being near Wyandot Lake, I could care less if Six Flags owns it or not. They've done nothing to the place for 10 years anyway. Their contract is up anyway. Six Flags New Orleans would be a likely candidate for close, but probably not. I thought that they had a contract with the city that says they have to rebuild or reopen in case of disaster. Plus, it wouldn't look too good if they did that. Kentucky Kingdom has always been a dog, and if Wyandot Lake is any indication of the state of the other waterparks in the chain, than maybe it's a good thing if they sell them to someone who will care about them.

I fully expected the Oklahoma City move to happen. I can't see the new owners leaving their palaces in New York for the comforts of Oklahoma. I really don't see Six Flags being in any position to buy Paramount Parks though. Closings and streamlining aren't enough to raise that kind of money.....and also I just refuse to believe the possibility of Kings Island becoming Six Flags Kings Island.....God help us

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