Six Flags Over Texas


By: Claude Cox

Revised by: Rebecca Wallisch

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: October 29, 2021


Six Flags over Texas (Six Flags), a tourist attraction and amusement park, is located equidistant between Dallas and Fort Worth in Arlington, Texas just off Interstate Highway 30 and State Highway 360. The amusement park was originally owned and operated by the Great Southwest Corporation. It was one of the first theme entertainment centers in the United States when it opened on August 5, 1961, although it was initially founded as a money-making scheme to support construction and expansion of a multi-use industrial and commercial development.

Six Flags was the brainchild of Angus G. Wynne, Jr., a graduate of UT Arlington (then North Texas Agricultural College). Wynne served in the Navy during World War II and, upon returning home, he and his business partners began a real estate development business. The initial success of the business inspired Wynne to seek out more investment opportunities, and the construction of the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike (present-day Interstate 30) in the mid-1950s provided the infrastructure to successfully develop the surrounding area.

Wynne conceived of constructing a massive industrial park and purchased several thousand acres in the Arlington/Grand Prairie area. He hired a team of experts to design and plan the large-scale project, which he dubbed the Great Southwest Industrial District (GSWID). However, despite his efforts, the GSWID struggled financially in its early years, and as a result, Wynne proposed constructing a sporting complex to draw in visitors.

During planning of the sporting complex, Wynne and his family visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Wynne was so inspired by his visit that he decided that instead of a sporting complex, he would construct a theme park with a unique Texas spin.  The theme park was named Six Flags Over Texas to represent the six flags are that have flown over Texas: the flags of Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America. In August 1960, construction began on Six Flags, located on a 105-acre tract between Arlington and Grand Prairie. The initial financial investment was $10 million, and many local leaders and businesspeople were wary of the park’s chances for financial success.

The park’s grand opening was held on August 5, 1961, and that day reportedly had 8,374 visitors. The success of Six Flags encouraged expansion, and by the end of the year the owners had already earmarked another half a million dollars to construct new attractions, including a new “city” depicting Texas’ Spindletop era, expansion of the lake, new live entertainment, and the jungle-themed Skull Island. In 1972, just over a decade after its opening day, the theme park had grown to include over ninety rides and attractions, a 300-foot oil derrick, and numerous theaters and auditoriums. That year the park recorded an annual visitation of two million people.  Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Six Flags continued to expand, adding new rides and attractions to meet the growing demand for larger and more thrilling roller coasters and rides. In 2011, Six Flags was the number one paid tourist attraction in the southwestern U.S.

Replicas of historic places on the grounds depict the history of the Lone Star State. The Texas Historical Commission placed Texas historical markers at a replica of Fort St. Louis, originally established in 1685; a "Boom Town" that contains some of the oil rigging and tools used by roughnecks during the 1920s; an antique hand-carved carousel; and at the park's demonstration of Texas railroads, which provides visitors a view of some of the original narrow-gauge railway tracks used in the nineteenth century. The 205-acre park offers more than 100 rides and shows for the price of admission. Popular recording artists perform at the Music Mill Theater during the evenings. An amphitheater provides revues, and a number of restaurants serve traditional Southern, Mexican, and American foods. Rides include a runaway train, a 143-foot-tall wooden rollercoaster, a log-flume water ride, and the "Cliff-hanger," which provides the sensation of stepping off a nine-story building and free-falling for 155 feet. In its first thirty years of operation, Six Flags over Texas had forty million visitors. The park is open on weekends from March through May, daily from June through Labor Day, and on weekends through early November. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve the park hosts a festival called "Holiday in the Park."

As of 2019, Six Flags was the largest regional theme park company in the world and owned and operated twenty-seven theme and water parks in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. That year the company reported thirty-three million annual visitors to its numerous parks, and a revenue of $1.5 billion. The Six Flags theme parks cumulatively included 925 rides, 145 roller coasters, and employed 52,000 people.

Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Arlington, Texas (California: Windsor Publications Inc., 1972). Austin American Statesman, March 28, 2011. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, November 10, 1957, August 4, 1961, November 26, 1961. Komatsu Architecture et al. Final Arlington Historic Resources Survey Update (September 2007), https://p1cdn4static.civiclive.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_14481062/File/City%20Hall/Depts/Office%20of%20Strategic%20Initiatives/Landmark%20Preservation%20Commission/_Historic%20Resources%20Survey%20Update%202007.pdf. Slover, Katherine, “A High Caliber Family Show: The Story of Six Flags Over Texas,” https://libraries.uta.edu/news-events/blog/high-caliber-family-show-story-six-flags-over-texas. Texas (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1982; rev. ed., 1989). Texas Department of Transportation, Report for Historical Studies Survey, IH 30, Fort Worth District (March, 2015). “Six Flags at a Glance,” https://investors.sixflags.com/investor-overview/six-flags-at-a-glance.

Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Texas in the 21st Century
Places:
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Claude Cox Revised by Rebecca Wallisch, “Six Flags Over Texas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/six-flags-over-texas.

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1976
October 29, 2021

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