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A Makeover for Six Flags' Water Park

Caribbean Theme Planned; Changes Come Amid Effort to Lift Financial Performance

By Krissah Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 3, 2005; Page PG05

Six Flags America in Largo is preparing for summer by remaking its water park in Caribbean style. The water park, part of one of the county's largest tourist attractions, will be renamed Hurricane Harbor and include two rides and an interactive wade pool. Caribbean restaurants and markets will be added throughout the theme park.

The water park "will grow slightly," said Six Flags Largo spokesman Christopher Haenn. "Most of the things we are doing will fit in the park's existing footprint."

Bahama Blast, a 55-foot-high ride that customers slide down on inner tubes, is one of three attractions being added to the revamped water park at Six Flags America. Another ride, a wade pool and Caribbean restaurants also are planned. (Courtesy Of Six Flags Inc.)

Six Flags contributes a significant portion of the more than $10 million the county collects each year in amusement taxes, generated from tickets for Washington Redskins games, the amusement park and movie theaters.

The park draws regional travelers each summer, said J. Matthew Neitzey, executive director of the Prince George's County Conference and Visitors Bureau.

"We're delighted that Six Flags is continuing to invest in Prince George's," Neitzey said. "They are one of the premier theme parks open in the country, and they are continuing to refresh their product and making it more appealing to new and repeat visitors."

The water park, formerly called Paradise Park, will open May 28. It will be painted in bright yellows, oranges and greens and will include palm trees. The new rides include the Tornado, Bahama Blast and Buccaneer Beach.

In the Tornado, riders float through a 132-foot-long tunnel in four-person, cloverleaf-shaped tubes. Buccaneer Beach is a wade pool for children with slides and other features. Bahama Blast is a 55-foot-high water ride that allows customers to slide down on inner tubes.

The changes come as Oklahoma City-based Six Flags Inc., which operates 32 parks, reported losing $355 million in the first nine months of last year. The company reported a profit of $17.8 million in the same period in 2003. It has attributed the loss to unseasonably cool and wet weather on some weekends last year, including the hurricanes and tropical storms that hit the Southeast and Gulf Coast.

The company is planning new rides in more than a dozen parks, and a few already have the Hurricane Harbor theme.

Six Flags Inc. also made news recently when a neighbor and investor, Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder, filed a public statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in January saying that he planned to sell his 8.76 percent stake in the company because of his disappointment with its financial performance.

In their own securities filings, Six Flags officials have said they believe their investment in new rides and attractions and their marketing campaign will improve the company's performance.

Neitzey, of the visitors bureau, said he thinks the additions to the Largo park will be good for Six Flags America and thus good for Prince George's.

"They hire a lot of folks and pay a lot of taxes," he said.

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