A Theme Park That Helped Build a City

by Cory Rubin, Staff Writer 844 views2

The Skytower under construction. Courtesy SCVHistory

Six Flags Magic Mountain has been a part of our community for nearly 40 years, but few have any idea how the world famous attraction in our back yard grew from a theme park to draw in potential homeowners to become  the home to some of the most innovative roller coasters in the world.

In the late 1960’s, Newhall Land and Farm decided to create a park to draw in people to buy land in the planned “master community” of Valencia. In 1969 construction began on a $20 million park funded by Newhall Land and Farm and Sea World.  Sea World hoped to create a second theme park in California but decided that the new park would be unable to draw in the numbers required to make a profit.

After two years of construction, Magic Mountain, which was originally to be called California Adventure 30 years before Disney opened theirs, opened to the public on May 27th, 1971 with just 500 employees.  The park boasted more than 30 attractions, however only six; Orient Express, Gold Rusher, Log Jammer, Sandblasters, Sky Tower and the Grand Carousel still stand today.  A water show on a manmade lake called “Mystic Lake” would soon occupy the spot where Hurricane Harbor stands today.  Admission was $5 for adults and $3.50 for children.

In 1979, the Texas theme park company, SIx Flags Incorporated, purchased the growing park and renamed it Six Flags Magic Mountain.  By that time several more attractions that are familiar today were open.  Revolution, the worlds first looping roller coaster opened to the public in 1976 and the instantly recognizable wooden coaster, Colossus, opened two years later in 1978. Colossus endured the parks first tragedy when a female passenger was ejected from her seat and fell to her death causing the ride to be closed temporarily as maintenance crews worked to ensure that history would not repeat itself.

It wasn’t until 1985 that a deal with Time Warner brought in the familiar Looney Tunes characters that roam the park today.  Up until that point the park was home to 3 fuzzy Converse-wearing trolls and a old wizard with a long grey beard.  The old mascots can be found today in the museum in the Sky Tower.

The 1980’s saw the introduction of a handful of park favorites including Roaring Rapids in 1981 and Ninja, the worlds fastest suspended roller coaster at 55 mph in 1988.

In the 90’s the park endured a roller coaster ride of its own with huge accomplishments and huge problems.  The gangs of Los Angeles began to overrun the park as gang violence culminated in a fatal shooting in the parking lot in the summer of 1998.  Huge changes were made to ensure the safety of the guests.   The 90’s also saw the opening of a quartet of ground breaking rides.  In 1990 guests lined up to experience the twists and turns of Viper.  In 1994, 1996 and 1998 superheroes made Magic Mountain their home with the opening of Batman the Ride, Superman the Escape and Riddlers Revenge.  Superman the Escape broke nearly every record in the book.  Using Electromagnetic propulsion so advanced that the Navy is looking into implementing them on aircraft carriers, guests are launched from 0 to 100mph in under 7 seconds. It was the first thrill ride to break the 100mph barrier sending riders flying across a 900 foot track and 255 feet straight up.  Guests experience just over 6 seconds of total weightlessness before plummeting back down to earth.  Batman’s nemesis, the Riddler, established his presence at the park with Riddlers Revenge, the worlds tallest and fastest stand-up roller coaster.  The crowning achievement for the park was the grand opening of Hurricane Harbor in May of 1995.  The two separate parks became known under the joint name of Six Flags California.  In 1996, the park endured another tragedy when a female employee was struck and killed by a train entering the station on Revolution.

The new millennium also saw its share of turmoil and prosperity.  The year 2000 marked the creation of a giant.  Goliath towered above the park at a dizzying height of 255 feet or about 25 stories, reaching 85mph on the 61 degree drop.  Unfortunately the 4.5 G forces that occur during the ride lead to the death of a 28 year old woman in 2001 after she suffered an aneurism on the ride.  An investigation of the incident revealed that the victim had a brain tumor and the ride was  deemed safe and cleared to re-open.  That year Magic Mountain introduced Déjá Vu, an inverted boomerang roller coaster that dangles guests in “ski lift” style seats as they ascend a 200ft tower, then they are released sending the train flying through the loops and inversions, up another tower only to be dropped and sent through the track again backwards.  In 2002 a ride opened that shattered peoples concept of what a roller coaster can do.  X featured trains with seats that rotate 360 degrees independent of the track.  It was the only one like it in the world.  In 2003 Scream! opened to the public.  The most recent tragedy occured when an employee was killed when the train struck her in 2004.  The ride was re opened immediately when it was found that the employee was at fault because she entered a restricted area that was clearly marked, ignoring the warnings.  Amidst dwindling attendance the park hoped that the 2006 opening of Tatsu, the worlds longest, tallest and fastest flying coaster. It would boost attendance with lines as long as 6 hours to ride the new attraction.  It did boost numbers but not as much as needed.  Corporate officials shocked Santa Clarita and California when they announced that Magic Mountain, Hurricane Harbor and four other parks were put up for sale, citing low attendance and sales.  Rumors swirled as some speculated that the park would be sold to a real estate developer and torn down to build housing.  However, in 2007 Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor were taken off the market due to a surge in attendance and season pass sales.  A corporate spokesperson said that the parks had become too valuable to sell.  X reemerged from a major revamp in 2008 as X2, with the added thrills of an exciting soundtrack, fog machines and propane flame jets.  The average wait time remains the longest in the park at approximately 3 hours.   In 2009 a new wooden coaster emerged despite company stocks falling below 25 cents.  Terminator: Salvation is a themed wooden coaster based on the 2009 movie release.  Many critics of the ride were dissappointed to find that more attention had been paid to the queue line, than to the ride itself.  That year, Six Flags Inc., which had been struggling financially for nearly 20 years, finally declared chapter 11 bankruptcy after debts reached over $1billion.

Now as the company emerges out of bankruptcy, the park remains a vital part of Santa Clarita’s culture and economy, employing over 30,000 people and drawing more the 2.5 million guests a year, from around the world.  For admission prices, operating hours and other park information visit sixflags.com/magicmountain.

Comments (2)

  1. Valencia is a beautiful city that has so much to offer! I have lived here for a little less than 2 years. Living less than 1 mile from Six Flags Magic Mountain and driving past it daily to access the 5 freeway, this attraction is still an exciting experience for our family every time we visit.

  2. Magic Mountain makes out city, whenever I tell people where I live and they don’t know where that is, I tell them I live 5 minutes from Magic Mountain and the lightbulb goes on. That was also my first job and I never get tired of going there.

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