The End of an Era is Fast Approaching

It all started last Friday, with a simple question…

“Excuse me, ma’am, why are you closing the park?” asked 12-year-old Matt Lemberg.

With that, there could only be one answer. A hung head, and an honest response that Six Flags, Inc has decided to close Astroworld, was all that was needed to dash a young boys dreams of summers spent on roller coasters, and autumns spent in haunted houses.

Come this Sunday, October 30th, Houston’s Astroworld will close its gates for the final time. On Monday, October 31st, employees will be busy shuttering the park and prepping every ride and every attraction for dismantling. That’s right, Houston… the era of summer fun that has been with us since 1968, has come to an end.

Earlier this year, Six Flags, Inc, made the decision to close it’s primary Houston park, Six Flag’s Astroworld. Astroworld, which contains one of Houston’s two main water parks, Waterworld, has provided millions (perhaps even billions) of Texans a place of summer fun for thirty-seven years. Citing lowered profit margins, Six Flags, Inc decided that it would be more profitable to sell the park’s land as office and retail space, than to keep it open for further years. Once again, the removal of a Houston icon came down to the all-mighty dollar. At this point, it is impossible to save Astroworld, it has entered it’s final days.

Houstonians wishing to relive the memories of Astroworld still have time to visit. Astroworld will be open next weekend as it’s final event of the year, Fright Fest, comes to a close. Those who want to relive memories are encouraged to pay it a visit.

I, for one, will not be able to go to visit my beloved Astroworld, one last time, as I simply cannot afford a ticket. Even though I can no longer fit on the rides, and walking for extended periods of time runs me the risk of badly injuring my left ankle (an old laser-tag injury from back in the day), I long to return to a park at which I spent many summers.

I remember waiting in line for Batman: The Escape, when it first opened. Sweltering in the summer sun for over two hours, before finally basking in the cool air conditioning once we arrived inside the mock “factory.” I remember the thrill of making a loop while standing. I remember other rides, as well, including one of my favourites, X-L-R8. Sure, X-L-R8 was not very fast (it had actually been slowed down from when it was first installed, citing whiplash as a reason), but it was the only hanging coaster in the park, never had a long line, and was a nice refresher when you were tired, hot, and sweaty.

I remember when they installed the Mayan Mindbender, Astroworld’s only indoor coaster. I remember how wonderful it was, during it’s second season, when the novelty had worn off and the lines were short. It was so wonderful to stand around in the nice, cool line indoors, and then spent a couple of minutes zipping around in the air conditioned dark. The best rides aren’t always the ones with speed, loops, or weird features.

Who can forget my absolute favourite attraction of Astroworld, Horizon’s Theatre. Featuring a round roof, Horizon’s utilized a special film and projector to project a movie on half of their giant roof, allowing Houstonians to put their ability to quell motion sickness to the test. It was wonderful, for twenty minutes, you could sit around in air conditioned comfort, and even experience the “thrill” of “zooming along on a roller coaster” or, one year, a race track. It wasn’t high tech, it wasn’t fast (if one was smart, one wouldn’t move at all, and just enjoy the cool air), it was just a break from the heat of the day, and a place to sit (or lay) and rest. Horizon’s closed its doors several years ago, having been made into offices and dressing rooms for the park employees. Horizon’s proved that the best attractions are not always twisty, high-speed rides.

I remember going to concerts at Astroworld, many times. Usually Christian shows, but I went to the occasional rock or country event. That was a little-known fact about Astroworld… they had a great outdoor live-music setup. Speaking of music, I remember the little recording studio where, for ten dollars, you and a friend could sing a duet and have it recorded on to a tape. I remember my friend Paul and I singing “Lean on Me.” The enginner of the studio asked our “group name.” We answered in high style, “Jake and the Fat Man.” …I was Jake.

It is with tears in my eyes as I conclude this entry, it having brought back memories of spending times with friends who have moved away, or passed on. Astroworld will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope that every current and former Houstonian will pause for a moment on October 31st, and stand in silent rememberance of a great theme park, as employees begin to shutter and dismantle it, for good.

(For more information on the closure of Six Flags, Astroworld, see the article from which I took the above quote at The Houston Chronicle: For AstroWorld Fans, the Ride is Over. For more information on current and past rides (as well as a lot of park history) at Astroworld, see Six Flags

3 Comments so far

  1. LessCowbell (unregistered) on October 25th, 2005 @ 8:47 am

    So who’s fault is this? Is it video games? The Internet? Easy marks I suppose. Or is it gross mis management. Somone was telling me that an Astroworld/Waterworld ticket cost $36 at times, more than Disney World. Or was it the alleged gang activity there?

  2. Ron (unregistered) on October 31st, 2005 @ 10:45 am

    After years of attending Astroworld it comes to a wimpering end! Shame on Houston for its lack of caring for nothing more than the all mighty dollar! This was a place of joy for many kids and families. Again Houston shows its lack for family and more for business! The forth largest city in the country and we cannot support a theme park? Six Flags bears a large percentage of why attendance was lacking! They did nothing to really improve the park and allowed it to decay! It was dirty most often and rides continued to break down! Rides were crammed on top of each other and food venues became over priced and poor quality! I remember year ago staying at the park with my kids till evening during the summer! We sat in the theater area to watch a water show and see the fireworks go off at 9:15 PM prior to heading home. We got season passes each year so my kids could go to WaterWorld and AstroWorld when they were separate attractions. My boys finally stopped going when they felt it was not for them anymore! I remember most riding the Greezed Lighting 10 times in a row with my now 18 year old youngest son! And how worn out I was trying to keep up with him. That is a memory I will hold within me forever! I divorced years later and remarried with two young girls in the family! We took them to Astroworld/Waterworld over the last 4 years and bought season passes again! My youngest daughter is the daredevil and would ride everything thrilling over and over. It is sad to not have her experience things as we did over the years! From the Fright Fest to the Winter Holiday at Astroworld! The memories will linger on and on! The saddest part is once the summer season begins in 2006! That Astroworld will be no more and nothing but a plot of land will stand where once joy, screams and laughter once existed! Astroworld it has for me been a nice 30 years!

  3. Fyre (unregistered) on October 31st, 2005 @ 6:44 pm

    Ron, it isn’t Houston’s fault. This lies entirely with Six Flags.

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