Six Flags seeks longer hours, more fireworks

January 10, 2013

Six Flags America is hoping to launch new activities this year to increase attendance, although some of its neighbors in Prince George’s County might object.

Park officials are seeking permission from the Prince George’s County Council to launch fireworks six times a season instead of just twice per year, and to occasionally stay open overnight to attract more business.

Six Flags initially sought to increase fireworks displays to twice per week, but neighboring organizations and Bowie officials raised concerns about traffic congestion and noise. As a result, park officials modified their request to six days out of the 120 days they are open this season, said Havilah Ross, a park spokeswoman. This season will be from March 23 to Oct. 27, Ross said.

Six Flags hasn’t yet determined what days it would want to have the extra fireworks displays, Ross said.

Fireworks are not unique at amusement parks. Kings Dominion has a fireworks display each night at its 10 p.m. closing during its peak summer season, which is about 70 days, said Gene Petriello, a spokesman for the Virginia park.

Six Flags will request the approval of the changes from the county’s zoning hearing examiner on Jan. 16. The County Council isn’t expected to make a decision until the spring, said Edward Gibbs, an attorney representing the amusement park.

Representatives with Six Flags America declined to discuss attendance rates at the park, but Ross said the park needs the extra attraction to continue to draw visitors.

“The more successful we are, the more jobs we can provide in the community,” she said.

During its busy period in the summer, the park employs about 2,000 people, the bulk of whom come from the county, Ross said.

Six Flags also seeks to host overnight events at the park, such as graduation and after-prom parties. This would require the County Council to amend ordinances to allow the park to continue to operate after 10 p.m., according to documents submitted to the county government.

What young people would do at such overnight parties worried Janice Liggins, president of Mitchellville’s Enterprise Estates Civic Association, which is about six miles from the park.

“I’m just not in favor of teens being involved in any sort of all-night activity unless it’s in someone’s home, like a slumber party,” she said.

Juveniles staying at the park overnight would most likely not be in violation of the county’s juvenile curfew that forbids juveniles to be outside and unaccompanied after 10 p.m. on most nights, said Lt. William Alexander, a county police spokesman.

“They’re probably covered, if they’re going to be supervised by competent adults,” he said.

Six Flags has precautions such as metal detectors security personnel to ensure safety, Ross said.

“We would be very diligent in ensuring it’s safe for young people,” she said.

Six fireworks displays a season seemed like it wouldn’t be much of an issue, said Joe Meinert, Bowie’s planning director. The Bowie City Council decided Jan. 7 to send a letter to the County Council saying it would be comfortable with six fireworks displays a season while asking them to study the environmental impacts of additional fireworks displays on surrounding wildlife as well. The council also moved forward in a 6-1 vote, which Councilman James Marcos (Dist. 1) opposed, with a note standing in opposition to overnight events at the park.

“I’m not comfortable with that aspect of the applicant’s request,” said Councilman Todd Turner (At-Large).

The prospect of more fireworks at the park concerned Phil Lee, executive director of the Kettering Civic Federation, which represents about 6,000 homes in the Kettering area. Fireworks at the park already leads to congestion on roadways such as state Route 214 as people pull onto the roads’ shoulders to get a view of the fireworks, he said. More days with fireworks would only add to the problem, Lee said.

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