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Monday, November 17, 2014

Proposed St. Louis Union Station: A look at Six Flags Autoworld and Power Plant

Big news out of St. Louis recently! The Union Station in St. Louis, a historic building, is proposed to house a 70 million dollar amusement park. The station was once a main hub for national rail, but it only serves local rail and some shopping today.

Included in the plans are a 200 foot Ferris Wheel. The plans are otherwise vague, but I really hope that this works out. It immediately reminded me of several other indoor amusement park projects that seem to be of a similar scale.

The park that immediately comes to mind is the failed Six Flags Power Plant. It was built in the former Pratt Street Power Plant, a historic building located in Baltimore's Inner Harbor area. (Photo Credit to Great Adventure History)
The attraction was less of a park, and more of a museum, with EPCOT style informative attractions. It was styled in a Jules Verne "Time Machine" style. The concept seems pretty similar to what is proposed for the Union Station project. The park was opened in 1985 and closed in 1989 after they were unable to gain a footing. Included in the attraction was a 3D simulator, something that was pretty popular in this time period.
Flint, Michigan was the site of another Six Flags venture that came to mind in regards to an indoor amusement park project like this. At this point, Roger Smith, then chairmen and CEO of General Motors, was closing plants left and right. The gritty Rust Belt town of Flint, Michigan was struggling at this point. This town was once the sole producer of both Chevrolets and Buicks. Pontiacs were also once primarily produced in the town. This members of the city also championed worker rights with the famous 1936-1937 sit-down strike in which workers occupied the town's plants for months. This solidified the union strength and worker that would endure for many decades. The closure of these plants has proven to be devastating to the city.

An indoor amusement park project was proposed to create a tourist draw and focus upon the town's heritage of automotive production. A large dome was built that contained a display that showed the history of Flint and auto production in the city. In the center of the dome was an Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel. An IMAX theater was also included that had a film on auto production. The park closed just 6 months after it opened in 1984.

The following video sums up the attraction nicely:
The following clip gives a decent overview of what they attempted to do. It all closed within a few years.
I wish the best for the Union Station project as someone who loves amusement parks and history. This attraction could be a decent mix of both. I hope that they can learn from the missteps that Six Flags took with the Power Plant and Autoworld projects. Another example is the Old Chicago indoor amusement park. Hopefully this project sees more success like the amusement park at the Mall of America.

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