New Orleans' Nickelodeon park moves closer to reality. But what about success?

October 8, 2009, 9:21 PM · New Orleans's proposed Nickelodeon theme park took one more step closer to becoming reality today when a federal bankruptcy judge in Delware approved a settlement over Six Flags' lease of the property where it has run the now-closed Six Flags New Orleans.

That park never reopened after Hurrican Katrina in 2005. A start-up called Southern Star Amusements wants to renovate the property, opening a Nick-themed park. Theme Park Insider readers (including yours truly) have expressed skepticism about the proposal.

But let's take a closer look at the numbers. The last two major U.S. theme park chain sales established the price per annual visitor at about $100. Given Nickelodeon Park's estimated budget of $165 million, that would suggest that the park would need to attract about 1.65 million visitors a year for the pricing formula to hold.

Six Flags New Orleans, in its best year, did about 1 million annual visitors, according to the old Amusement Business/ERA reports. Would this rehab, plus the Nick branding, be enough to attraction an additional 650,000 visitors a year? Using 1 million as the baseline is probably optimistic, given the extensive emigration from the immediate area after Katrina. And a kid-focused theme park doesn't mesh well with New Orleans' more adult image, so it probably won't draw much from the existing out-of-area tourist market in the city.

Still, with that kid focus, you're likely not looking at the expense of B&M coasters. Or tech-heavy dark rides. Really, the Nick park may very well end up looking like an expanded version of Kings Island's Nick Universe. No, that wouldn't be on par with Universal or Busch (much less Disney) attractions, but Nick Universe drew its share of fans from throughout the Midwest. I'm not the expert (calling Dave Cobb!), but it seems to me something on that scale could be done on the budget Southern Star's discussing.

Is an expanded Nick Universe enough of a draw to bring 650,000-1 million extra visitors to eastern New Orleans? Ultimately, that's the public's call. What do you say?

Replies (4)

October 9, 2009 at 12:04 AM · I expect we have another Hard Rock Park on our hands.
October 9, 2009 at 2:20 PM · Honestly New Orleans is not the best place to build a childrens theme park. For one New Orleans is mainly know for their party scene and another reason is that chances are likely that New Orleans will get hit by another huricane.
October 10, 2009 at 4:09 PM · After Katrina hit New Orleans, a huge group of people left and the population declined radically. I feel that this had to do with a biblical concept and the sinful image of New Orleans. But I know that disasters happen and we can't control them and when they happen they're never enjoyable. That being said, I hope that if the park does work out that it will give New Orleans a better reputation and attract people for a better reason than Bourbon St or Mardi Gras. I am hoping that this works because I live in Baton Rouge and it's fun to see this area grow, but I guess it just depends on how fun the park is going to be if it will attract at least 1.65 million people a year. I know I'll be there.
October 11, 2009 at 7:06 AM · Las Vegas was known as an adult playground. It tried to change itself into a family friendly destination and failed. Mardi Gras is also a basically an R-rated "attraction". If you add jazz and crawfish to the mix, it becomes an even stronger adult focused region which is a very big challenge to overcome, even with the cross-generation appeal of Sponge Bob.

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