People all over southeast Texas are saddened at news that Six Flags Astroworld will close after 37 years as a favorite destination for generations of children and families. The owners — Six Flags Corporation — will shut it down at the end of this season and sell the property to developers. They say the park isn’t making money, and because land prices are so high and getting higher, it makes more corporate sense to close it and sell it.
Astroworld was the brainchild of the late Roy Hofheinz, the former Houston Mayor and Harris County Judge who brought major league baseball to Houston and built the Astrodome in the mid 1960s. Big theme parks were catching on around the country at that time, and Hofheinz’s son Fred Hofheinz says his father wanted to build a theme park in Houston, just like Disneyland and Six Flags Over Texas.
For the first seven years of its existence, Astroworld was family owned and operated. Fred Hofheinz and his father developed the park and built it, and his sister — Dene Hofheinz Anton — did all the creative stuff. Anton says she feels an overwhelming sadness knowing that it will all disappear, because it brings back memories of her mother, who died while it was being built. She says losing it feels like another death in the family.
Dene Anton says she did a lot of everything at Astroworld in the years before her father sold it to Six Flags in 1975. She designed and decorated many of the restaurants and shops, produced the musical revues and shows in the Crystal Palace, and did all the public relations and marketing.
Fred Hofheinz says he expects Six Flags Corp will move Astroworld’s roller coasters and high tech thrill rides to its other parks around the country, and sell the smaller rides and equipment. He says one particular small ride is very special to him, because it was special for his father, and he hopes it can find a new home.
Hofheinz says it would be great if local investors could buy the park — but he understands the fiscal realities that make that highly unlikely. Here is a time line of Astroworld’s history, and photos of the original rides.