Thursday, January 18, 2007

Six Flags Name Change Official

Six Flags Name Change Official; $16 Million in Upgrades Planned
By Matthias Gafni, Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

A CHEETAH gazes at a crowd that gathered Wednesday at an event announcing that Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo had officially changed its name to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. (Courtesy Photo/Six Flags Discovery Kingdom)

Sentimentality aside, Marine World now is known as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, and its parent company announced plans Wednesday to sink up to $16 million in renovations to "relaunch" the Vallejo park.

As the Times-Herald reported last week, the president and CEO of Six Flags, Mark Shapiro, announced the name change and various other operational and capital improvements to the theme park.

"Marine World, I'm not so sure what that meant. Was it a water park? Just sea mammals? For some people, they could have thought it was an armed forces park," he said.

"It's a kingdom ... (The new name is) much more representative of what the park is," Shapiro said.

The city of Vallejo and Six Flags are in a joint ownership deal where they share profits. Shapiro said nothing was in the works to buy the park from the city.

"There's no update. We have a great partnership and we look forward to collectively prospering in the years to come," the CEO said.

Shapiro also put to rest any thoughts that Discovery Kingdom was on the list of Six Flags parks up for sale. "We'll be here for a long time to come, and this is year one of a major investment," he said.

Last week, Six Flags announced it agreed to sell three of its water parks, including Concord's Waterworld USA, and four of its theme parks to PARC 7F-Operations Corp. of Jackson, Fla., for $312 million.

Shapiro made Wednesday's formal announcement in the soon-to-be Explorer's Outpost, a central concierge hub, before a couple dozen VIPs, staff and media. Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli Jr., former mayor Terry Curtola, councilmember Tom Bartee and mayoral candidate Osby Davis joined the festivities.

Curtola was largely responsible for bringing the park to Vallejo from Redwood City in the 1980s.

"It'll always be Marine World to me," Curtola said. "But that's progress. ... Hopefully, it will be bigger and better for the city."

Shapiro hoped to gain city officials' support in further marketing the park, especially with increased signage along Interstate 80. He hopes to widen the park's marketing campaign to the San Francisco and Napa areas.

"In years past, the park was not doing a good enough job getting out the message," he said.

The park's new logo includes a Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

The newly named park will re-organize itself, separating areas of the park into Land, Sea and Air.

"We will begin to model other parks off the three-pronged offering we have here," Shapiro said.

Officials also promoted Holiday in the Park, a holiday-themed enterprise similar to its Halloween Fright Fest, and new shows, rides and other entertainment that will be announced at later dates.

Even with the multi-million investment, Shapiro said adult admission prices will drop by $2, to $49.99.

Plus, all season long, anyone bringing a Coke can enter for a kid's fee of $29.99.

Before the press conference ended, African Acrobats performed a preview of their upcoming Discovery Kingdom show, featuring Cirque de Soleil-style tumbling, gymnastics, jump roping and human pyramids. The six-person team from Kenya, who have long worked at Las Vegas hotels, will have a 10-week run at the Vallejo park.

As attendees left Wednesday's indoor press conference, they were greeted by a circus scene. A row of saluting elephants led the group to a giant circle of animals, park mascots and superheroes, trainers and park officials.

Ping and Pong, two black-and-white African penguins, swam in the park's fountain. Kamala, a 5-year-old tamandua, a smaller anteater, waddled along the floor, occasionally dipping her 16-inch long tongue into a test tube full of blended beef heart. Bacardi, a 3-year-old giant Indian fruit bat, hung out upside down, while Freddy, a 16-year-old Sulcata tortoise slowly meandered away from his trainers.

"You come here and you get interaction with animals, where you can't get that anywhere else," Shapiro said.

SIX FLAGS provided this drawing of how the entrance to its newly named Vallejo theme park, Discovery Kingdom, will look. (Courtesy photo)

E-mail Times-Herald staff writer Matthias Gafni at or call 553-6825.

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