Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Say Goodbye to AstroWorld

If you ever want to see AstroWorld alive again, you'd better get on down to Houston soon.

Six Flags officials announced yesterday that AstroWorld, the 37-year-old Houston theme park across Loop 610 from the Astrodome, will be closing down for good at the end of the 2005 season. The last day of the season is Sunday, October 30.

Company officials believe rising land values around the Astrodome and Reliant Stadium make closing AstroWorld and selling off the land a wiser long-term investment than continuing to operate the park. Six Flags will continue to operate SplashTown, a water park on I-45 north of Houston, with some of AstroWorld's attractions relocated there.

Having grown up in nearby Bellaire, I spent much of my early adolescence at AstroWorld. I had a season pass for several years and the older kids running the rides referred to kids like me as "season pass pests." Every spring weekend, my mom would drop my buddies and I off and we'd spend all our money on Icees and corn dogs. By June, we'd stop going to AstroWorld because it had already become boring.

The very first time I ever danced in close proximity to a girl (1984) was at a Dishes show at AstroWorld. The very first time I ever locked my keys in my car with the car running was when I went to see the Monkees' (1986) reunion tour (sans Mr. Nesmith) at AstroWorld. The very first time I ever saw a woman's bikini line stubble up close and personal (1981) was in the front row of a bad magic show at AstroWorld. The magician's assistants wore tight sequined leotards with nude pantyhose, and I wound up seeing that bad magic show over and over again until I could recite most of it from memory.

In 1985, they opened the Southern Star Ampitheatre behind the Greezed Lightnin' loop-de-loop rollercoaster and started booking lots of concerts. If you had a special "Q-Pass" season pass issued by Top 40 powerhouse 93Q, you could get lawn seats for just five or ten bucks. I saw Kenny Loggins (with comic legend Bill Hicks opening), Heart, REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, Squeeze, the Hooters, John Waite and the Grateful Dead there. That's right, I saw the Grateful freakin' Dead at AstroWorld, and it changed my whole damn life!

I never did kowtow to calling the park "Six Flags AstroWorld," as it came to be known. Despite having a fine collection of rollercoasters, including the legendary Texas Cyclone (my initial ride at age 8 scared me away from thrill rides until I was 16), Six Flags usually treated AstroWorld like a bastard stepchild, especially after buying Fiesta Texas in San Antonio.

When Roy Hofheinz first opened AstroWorld in 1968 as part of the "Astrodomain" entertainment complex, it was still relatively close to the edge of town. As time went on, it became completely enveloped by the city, making expansion prohibitively expensive. The vast majority of people who went to AstroWorld were from the Houston area, which meant they weren't going to spend as much on concessions, either.

Nevertheless, I never thought I'd live to see AstroWorld disappear altogether. I'm kind of broken up about it, and I know I'm not the only old Houston kid who feels that way.

If you're of like mind, perhaps you can relive some of the faded memories at this AstroWorld tribute site.


Karla said...


If Astroworld closes, that basically means that everything associated with my childhood/adolescent years in Houston will be gone.

I, too, had the season passes for about 6 years running. My friend Julia used to work there and we all thought she was so grown up and cool because she MADE season passes as her job!

I puked on Greased Lighting.

I got stoned and then busted for it at the same Cheap Trick concert you attended. (I think I am still in trouble with my parents for that night.)

I might have to try to go back, one last time. OR maybe not. Some things hsould be left as a fond memory.

BB said...

Oddly enough, my experience with Astroworld mostly amounted to a real-life statistical anomaly.

I was an Angleton kid, so going to Houston was, you know, going to THE CITY.

But for a long stretch when I was a youth, every single trip to Astroworld got rained out. I mean, it's a rainy area as you know, but I had a consecutive streak of maybe 10 failed excursions that lasted years. By my teens I went from wanting to claw my eyeballs out to no longer caring.

The gods did smile enough to let me see Steve Winwood and the Moody Blues (not together) there after high school. The Fixx opening for the Moody Blues... whose freakin' idea was that? It was comically bad.

Anyway, it's sad to see it go.

jennifer said...

They have been letting the evacuee kids go there for free while they are staying at the Astrodome, which is a nice gesture.

I've never been!

Chox said...

I feel for you, Greg. They closed Sea World in Cleveland, and Cedar Point is now Six Flags Over Lake Erie or something stupid like that...I refuse to call it anything but Cedar Goddamn Fucking Point.

BTW...I can't find your email address anywhere. You needs to email your cousin (in law, once removed, I think). chadfox@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Lake Jackson, about 20 minutes away from Brian in Angleton, an hour or so southeast of Houston. Going to Astroworld was a big treat.

Truth be told, I discovered at Astroworld that I don't much care for amusement parks. But hey, almost every time I went it was with my church youth group, and there was always some young lady I had a crush on that I hoped to get close to at the park...somehow...

My first rock concert was at the Southern Star Amphitheater, though: Night Ranger and Starship. I'm deeply ashamed, though I came out of that show absolutely despising the former. I also saw Mr. Mister there with some local band called 4 Reasons Unknown.

My sister also went to her first concert at the Southern Star: Howard Jones.

Ah, memories...but if I survived the closures of Liberty Lunch and the Electric Lounge, I guess I'll survive this. Though I wonder where Houston junior high school kids are gonna go to hold hands and flirt...


Anonymous said...

But Why I Love Astroworld it should not be taken away from me It was My best place to go visit Im crying down in tears