April 7, 2023 7:00am

Can the new Six Flags plan succeed? Power Poll members split

More than one third of respondents doubt long-term prospects

Photo of Drew Broach
New Orleans, LA Correspondent
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Jazzland declared bankruptcy, and Six Flags New Orleans never reopened after Hurricane Katrina. But the putative redevelopers of the moribund 227-acre theme park express confidence in their new plan, even though it, too, is largely aimed at consumers and seemingly not so much at manufacturing or industrial potential.

Not so sanguine are Power Poll New Orleans members. More than one third of those voting in this month's poll doubt that the current concept will increase its chance of long-term success, compared to about one third who say it will. Almost as many say "maybe."

Betsie Gambel, president of Gambel Communications, knows the location's challenge firsthand.

"Having worked with the opening of Jazzland and Six Flags, I contend that the developers must recognize the continued challenge of visitors’ reluctance to cross the high rise [bridge] into a still fragile New Orleans East," Gambel said. "Marketing with compelling messaging will be key to attracting guests, especially beyond New Orleans. That being said, I loved Jazzland/Six Flags and the family entertainment it offered."

New Orleans leaders have walked a tightrope trying over the past 17 years to put the site back into business. On the one hand, New Orleans East has languished, and its residents, feeling neglected by investors, want to ensure whatever is built there comports with their lifestyles.

In the past, some residents were not so impressed by proposals for warehousing, transportation, distribution and logistics centers, even if those uses might deliver benefits to the broader regional economy. At a recent public hearing, however, boosters cheered plans by the chosen developer, Bayou Phoenix, for water parks, hotels, sports fields, movie studios, entertainment and dining.

'Engage with residents'

"Jazzland's development can and should be a major win not just for the city of New Orleans but for the residents of the East who have suffered the consequences of massive disinvestment," said Nellie Catzen, executive director of the Committee For A Better New Orleans. "The developer and the city should consistently engage with residents to understand their needs and seek to meet them. I'd like to see some level of affordable housing built into the plan, and local hiring best practices upheld."

On another issue, almost two thirds of Power Poll respondents favor continued enforcement of the New Orleans Police Department's reform consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department. Less than one third think it's time to release the Police Department from federal agreement, as Mayor LaToya Cantrell wants.

The decision belongs to U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who of late has pressed her thumb on the Cantrell administration.

And on a lighter note, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival opens April 28. This year's music headliners include Jon Bastite, Lizzo, Dead & Company, the Lumineers, H.E.R., Melissa Etheridge, Ludacris, Ed Sheeran, Mumford & Sons, Santana, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Kane Brown, Leon Bridges, Kenny Loggins, Herbie Hancock, Tom Jones, Jazmine Sullivan and the Steve Miller Band.

Whew! Power Poll is impressed:

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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