Six Flags prepares to open theme park

Fun: After renovating and adding rides and attractions to the former Adventure World in Largo, Six Flags will open its amusement park Saturday.

April 29, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

It used to be that a trip to Six Flags meant packing kids and lunches into a station wagon and steeling your nerves for every-other-mile traffic jams and three hours worth of "Are we there yet?"

Now the kids will hardly have time to beg for their first bathroom break before the station wagon reaches Central Avenue and the gates of Six Flags America are in sight.

The new theme and water park in Largo, formerly Adventure World, opens Saturday with fanfare befitting an amusement park: confetti cannons, helium balloons and Looney Tunes characters marching in a parade. The music and flags are as likely to be a celebration of Baltimore and Washington finding a place on the map of the amusement park world as they are a celebration of the park's opening.

Six Flags is "a significant company in the industry now," said John Graff, president and chief executive officer of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. "They own more parks than anyone. I think there's a great deal of interest in what Six Flags is doing in the industry."

Several amusement parks are not far from Baltimore and Washington -- Hershey Park in Hershey, Pa., Paramount Kings Dominion in Doswell, Va., and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. -- Adventure World, between the cities, was Maryland's only theme park.

Six Flags has taken over the popular park -- Adventure World had more than 1 million visitors last year -- and added $30 million in rides, attractions and renovations. The park got its new name last year after the company that owned it, Premier Parks, bought Six Flags Inc. Four other parks, in Kentucky, California, Denver and New York, also came under the Six Flags name in the transaction, bringing the Six Flags nationwide total to 17 parks.

"Since there was no other theme park in the state of Maryland and there are so many people that live within a 70-mile radius, our company decided this area deserved a major theme park," said Debbie Daniel, a park spokeswoman. "Even for people in D.C., by the time they drove to another park in another state, they could already be riding a roller coaster at Six Flags."

Visitors will see a new entrance at the Largo park with ticket booths, a new main street, shops and restaurants with Georgian-style architecture. The entrance theme ties the park to the area's historical roots, said Daniel.

A new children's section, intended to resemble a Hollywood back lot as it would look in a Warner Brothers cartoon, has Looney Tunes characters throughout and a dozen new rides and attractions, most of which are scaled-down versions of the big kids' favorites.

The Batman Thrill Spectacular, which puts visitors into a set of a Batman movie, plays in a 2,500-seat amphitheater. One blast of fire from a tower during the show puts out enough energy in four seconds to heat the average home for a year, said special effects coordinator David Mesloh.

Four 1,000-pound propane tanks help fuel the flames for the show, said technical director Todd Wawrzeniak

Two roller coasters are opening this year, both with names out of Batman. The Joker's Jinx will launch riders from a standstill to 60 mph in three seconds, Daniel said. The Two Face ride sends passengers through the roller coaster forward and backward.

A park opening celebration is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday. Park gates open at 9: 30 a.m. The water park is scheduled to open May 22. A season pass for a family of four is $39.99. One-day regular admission is $29.99 for adults, $14.99 for children 4 feet tall and shorter. Children 3 and younger are admitted free.

Pub Date: 4/29/99

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