Dear Six Flags, Inc.,
The Social Commentator
Many of you who know me personally know of my abject distaste (to put it mildly) for Six Flags Inc.. Of course, some will chalk it up to my bitterness over having worked at The Great Escape throughout most of high school and college. That’s not exactly true, as I look back on my time there with some fondness, even if more so for a youth passed than anything else. Rather, my distaste stems from the downward spiral this corporation has taken itself – and what was once a charming, fun attraction in Lake George – on over the past decade.
In 1954, a philanthropist by the name of Charlie Wood opened Storytown USA. Initially geared as a fun park for small children, the next three decades saw small expansions in rides and attractions. In 1983, the park shed it’s fairytale-sounding name and officially became The Great Escape.
The park grew exponentially over the years, and garnered national attention in 1994 when it acquired The Comet, a famous wooden roller coaster from Crystal Beach, an Ontario-based amusement park. In a former life, the tracks of the Comet made up the tracks of The Cyclone, a renown Coney Island attraction.
In 1996, Premier Parks Inc. bought the Great Escape from an aging Charlie Wood. Once only open 9:30 am until 6:00 pm Monday through Sunday, Premier battled with Queensbury residents to keep the park open later hours. Naturally, they raised the prices as well. In 1998, Premier acquired Six Flags, and changed its name to the more well-known title. Regionally, Six Flags also owns Darien Lake, Great Adventure, Six Flags New England, and LaRonde.
Focusing back on The Great
Mistake Escape, in 1999 they acquired a number of properties surrounding the park, including Martha’s Dandee Creme and Motel – an ice cream stand popular with locals and tourists. The park continued to expand – both operation hours (it is now open through October with the addition of Fright Fest in October) and marketing techniques (Season Passes for locals, expanded picnic group services and special events).
I outgrew the park. With the exception of roller coasters, I simply don’t like rides. To shell out $40 to go to a park to ride a couple coasters seems silly to me, especially since I used to get in for free. It didn’t help when park policies got “greedy” – first by making it extremely difficult to come into the park with your own food and drink, and then forbidding it altogether; charging way too much money for mediocre food; and, of course, increasing the ticket prices. I also remember distinctly when the Great Escape battled Warren County over whether or not to charge sales tax – something that would have been a windfall of needed revenue for the county and would have been a drop in the bucket for Six Flags.
As of this year, though, the greed has topped anything I’ve ever seen. With the opening of a new, year round indoor water park/hotel and suites across the road, and a beautiful pedestrian bridge, Six Flags thinks it’s appropriate to charge $10 for parking on top of the already expensive ticket prices. Season passes are still available for $60 a person (which are good at all Six Flags theme parks), however, once where employees could get a few free tickets, as well as purchase discounted tickets and season passes for friends and family, they are no longer able to do that. And, as far as I know, the employees are still among the lowest paid seasonal employees in the region.
However, what topped off my distaste for this horrible corporation was their new policy of disallowing free admission to volunteers, paramedics, and one on one aides for disabled visitors to the park. As a result, not for profit agencies such as the ARC are unable to utilize the park for field trips. Charlie Wood, who left much of his fortune to Glens Falls Hospital, not to mention the Double H Hole in the Woods Ranch, a free-of-charge summer camp for children with developmental disabilities, which he opened with Paul Newman. If he were alive to see what Six Flags has turned his park into, that in itself would kill him.