Six Flags Entertainment Corp. is the world’s largest amusement park corporation based on number of components, and the fifth-most popular in terms of attendance. The company maintains 18 properties throughout North America consisting of style parks, adventure parks, water parks, and family entertainment facilities. In 2009, Six Flags properties hosted 23.9 million guests.
Six Flags Entertainment Corp was founded in Texas and took its name from its first property, Six Flags Over Texas. The company maintains a corporate office in Midtown Manhattan, New York City and its headquarters are in Grand Prairie, Texas. On June 13, 2009, the corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and successfully exited the restructuring on May 3, 2010.
History of Premier Parks
Premier Parks originally operated as the Tierco Group, Inc., an Oklahoma-based real estate company. The company purchased the Frontier City theme park in Oklahoma City in 1982 for $1.2 million, although Tierco had no intention of entering the amusement park business. Company officials described Frontier City as “beat up” and “run down”; they planned to demolish it, subdivide the land, and build a shopping center. However, given an oil bust in Oklahoma, developers lost interest in converting the park into a shopping center. In 1984 Tierco hired Gary Story as general manager of Frontier City and sunk about $13 million into improving the park. As the new head Frontier City, he quadrupled the park’s attendance and revenues. Under his leadership, two rides, a ticket booth, sales office, and a petting zoo were added to the park. Food service improved.
In 1988, Tierco shifted its strategic direction to amusement parks. It sold much of its property in the late 1980s, generating capital to reinvest in Frontier City. As this reinvestment paid off, more capital became available, creating further growth. Tierco opened White Water waterpark in 1991 (the name later became White Water Bay). The company realized the key to boosting a park’s attendance was to add new and exciting rides, and make it family-friendly.
Tierco acquired the financially troubled Wild World in Largo, Maryland, in 1992 and later changed that park’s name to Adventure World. With a $500,000 investment, Tierco expanded Wild World’s kiddie section and remodeled its buildings to give the park a tropical look and feel. Story was promoted to executive vice president after the purchase of Wild World. In 1994, he was promoted again to president and chief operating officer (COO). More flat rides and two roller coasters were added to that park.
Since Tierco was on its way to becoming a “premier” regional theme park operator, in 1994 it changed its name to Premier Parks, Inc. Kieran E. Burke, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO), noted that the new name signified the beginning of a new era for the company. When 1994 ended, Premier Parks agreed to manage Elitch Gardens, which had moved from a Denver suburb to within the city.
In the second half of the 1990s, Premier picked up speed. In 1995, the company acquired these Funtime Parks, Inc. properties: Geauga Lake near Cleveland, Ohio, Wyandot Lake in Powell, Ohio, Darien Lake near Buffalo, New York, and Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut. In 1996, Premier added to its portfolio, buying Elitch Gardens outright, the Waterworld USA waterparks in Sacramento and Concord, California, Riverside Park near Springfield, Massachusetts, and Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom at Lake George, New York. Premier immediately sold the Lake Compounce park to Kennywood in Pennsylvania.
Geauga Lake, Wyandot Lake, and Adventure World included water parks, while Frontier City bordered one that required separate admission. Riverside added one just before being sold. Premier Parks, in1995 and 1996, added water parks to Darien Lake, Lake Compounce (immediately before the Kennywood sale), Elitch Gardens, and Great Escape.
Premier went public in 1996 and raised nearly $70 million through an initial offering at $18 per share. The company planned to use the money to expand its ten parks and acquire others. In 1997, Premier purchased Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, and Marine World near San Francisco. A second public offering, at $29 per share, raised an additional $2 million. A water park was added to Kentucky Kingdom in 1998.
Nearly 8.8 million people visited Premier’s parks in 1996.
Premier added amusement park rides and roller coasters to Marine World in 1998.