Empty roller coasters are seen in a closed Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo during the pandemic. There has been no confirmation of rumors that Six Flags will move from Vallejo to Fresno, but Fresno city and development officials “rolled out the red carpet” to woo a large Los Angeles investor interested in development potential for an amusement park and more in Fresno.

Empty roller coasters are seen in a closed Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo during the pandemic.  There has been no confirmation of rumors that Six Flags will move from Vallejo to Fresno, but Fresno city and development officials

Ben Margot


Six flags on Fresno? It might be time to issue a warning flag.

Whispers that a large theme park company may be heading to the central San Joaquin Valley have been circulating for months, and the enthusiasm shown by local politicians and job creators is understandable.

But if I have learned anything from nearly 25 years of living here, it’s that Fresno is a place where many big dreams of development fall apart.

In other words, we’ve been on this roller coaster before. And we know how the journey almost always ends. For example:

Trump National, Fresno

Rarely, if ever, has more ink, paper, and breath in California’s fifth largest city been wasted on a project that had little or no chance of coming to fruition.

This is exactly what happened in 2007 when Fresno city leaders let themselves be charmed by a New York business mogul / celebrity / con artist named Donald Trump. Who made it to town one afternoon and raised hopes of saving a failed residential and golf course west of Highway 99 called Running Horse.

With Trump’s name and stamp (“How does ‘Trump National, Fresno’ sound?” Asked a bee story from this July), the Jack Nicklaus-designed course surrounded by expensive homes was to be a regular stop. of the PGA Tour while giving Southwest Fresno a much needed economic boost. Right?

Wrong. Although he agreed to shell out over $ 40 million for development ($ 25 million up front and $ 15 million from the sale of future homes), Trump quickly withdrew his support and sent his daughter Ivanka, then 27, here to smile for the cameras and smooth out any hurt feelings. (Of which there were a few.) Today, almond trees belonging to the Assemi family grow on these 400 acres.

Fresno Lake

Wouldn’t it be cool if downtown Fresno had a lake?

It is an idea that has been launched by local politicians since 1972 to serve as an attraction for housing development. Mayor Alan Autry promised to build the man-made lake in the early 2000s, but during his second term, Lake Autry had narrowed into a river and then into a ‘never-ending body of water’. extend no more than a block ”.

If only Fresno had a natural water feature (or two), the town’s ancestors could have settled closer instead …

Fresno Aquarium

Maybe I’m hard on including the Fresno Aquarium on this list. The project is technically underway, with 10 acres of land overlooking the San Joaquin River, a website and semi-active social media accounts to prove it.

You must admire the Aquarius Aquarium Institute for its relentless pursuit of a goal, which is entering its third decade. But at one point, it’s fair to wonder if a sign for Highway 99 near the Herndon Avenue exit is as close to an aquarium as ever.

I hope I am wrong.

Valley highways

The valley has a thriving scene of miniature car races and dirt tracks, but that hasn’t stopped some people from dreaming bigger.

Think bigger NASCAR and Indy Racing League.

In 2000, the promoters of Yosemite Motor Speedway claimed they had enough capital to build a one-mile paved highway on 480 acres of Madera County farmland. (“Our bank money is there,” said one of them. “It’s a funded track.”) In 2008, the Tulare city council approved a developer’s plan for a powersports complex. de Tulare’s 711-acre area featuring a one-mile oval and drag strip with combined seating for 92,400.

Neither project made it out of the blocks and out of the garage, but not for lack of gassing by local media.

Disney Skiing

Six Flags wouldn’t be the first major theme park chain with big plans for central California. In 1965, Disney became the Forest Service’s preferred choice to build an “American Alpine Wonderland” in Mineral King Valley, with 22 ski lifts and cable cars, a 1,030-room hotel, 10 restaurants and cafes, a movie theater, a general store. , swimming pools, skating rinks, tennis courts and golf course.

Alarmed by Disney’s proposal, environmentalists (led by the Sierra Club) fought a long legal battle that finally culminated in 1978 when the Mineral King region was incorporated into Sequoia National Park.

Today, Mineral King Valley and the eight glacial cirques that Walt Disney envisioned as a skier’s paradise remain unspoiled wilderness. A good thing too, because a lot has changed in half a century, nothing more than the local climate. Most years we came down from dirt and rocks.

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Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on current affairs, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a native of the Bay Area, a graduate of the UC Davis and always played Sierra. He welcomes the speech with the readers but does not suffer from fools or trolls.


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