Thursday, September 01, 2005


Magic Landing opened on July 4th 1984, with most of its rides not operable. There are several reports of the park not having the required insurance policies on all of its rides at the time it opened, but managed to open without these policies to make the scheduled open. Another problem the park faced was its open date. Most of the rides weren't fully constructed & inspected by the time the park opened, which prompted the insurance companies to not let the rides operate on its opening day. For the first few months the park was moderately successful, spawning some small concerts (local bands) and fireworks fesitivies every Friday. As we (El Pasoans) know now, fireworks have always been banned inside the city limits, so when the park offered fireworks every week, it was an added incentive.

I do not have an accurate timeline of events that caused the park to close, but I do know of the incidents at the park that caused lawsuits and its eventual demise. The most noted was the accident on the rollercoaster. The Wildcat was a steel rollercoaster that was bought from Six Flags Magic Mountain after that park decided to get rid of it. Rebuilt in El Paso, the death on the ride happened when the ride operator was trying to retrieve a baseball cap blown off of a park patron. The operator's arm was cut off as he forgot where some of the active parts of the ride were and an oncoming car cut it off. He subsequently bled to death en route to the hospital.

An interesting side note, after the park was shut down permanently in 1988, the rollercoaster stood at the park until 1990, when it, along with most other rides were taken down and placed in storage, or set up for sale. The Wildcat was bought and has been in operation in Durango Mexico at one of their major amusement parks since 1993.

Another accident (a story that seems to be collaborated by too many people but no news articles in any newspaper) happened on the Ferris wheel. The one at Magic Landing was the largest free standing Ferris wheel in the state of Texas, but unknown if it was also the largest one in the 48 contingent United States. The park had at one point been able to sell alcohol to park patrons, and its unclear whether or not this woman's unstable mental capacitites had anything to do with it, freaked out while on the Ferris wheel. With no restraints, and an open gondola design, she stood up and tried to jump off the ride. She ended up falling to the car below her, and was seriously injured.

Also involving alcohol, there was an instance where during a concert, there was several park patrons who got too drunk and started fighting. There are conflicting reports (found in several newspaper clippings) what misc. weapons were used in this altercation, but most accounts have them as either an axe, ice pick or baseball bat.

Now with this said, we can see that there are several lawsuits spurring up from this. There are some other bits of insight that were told to the El Paso Inc. by the owner of Western Playland, Pat Thompson.

E.P.I.-Why does Western Playland succeed where Magic Landing failed?

P.T.-Magic Landing was trying to be a theme park. El Paso wasn't really ready for one. It doesn't have the population or the family income levels to support a theme park. When people go on vacation, they're willing to spend extra money on theme parks. But, see, you wouldn't do it here (or) even in California. Disneyland can't get the locals to come out. They have to give big discounts to draw them out. Western Playland isn't here for the tourists. It can't be. There's not enough tourist traffic in El Paso.
When you look back at all of this, you see that Magic Landing was doomed. Couple this with numerous lawsuits filed by the victim's family and poor word-of-mouth advertising and you see that there was no chance for the park to re-open anytime soon. There was some hope, however.

Six Flags Magic Landing
*photo removed by The Archivist

When Magic Landing went under, developers for the Six Flags corporation came to El Paso to see if they could build a new amusement park in town. When they first saw the land and the existing yet closed park, they saw potential. In their demographic surveys, a 300 mile radius around El Paso showed that cities such as Albuquerque, Tucson, Midland and Las Cruces -- not to mention the fact it was on the border with Mexico & Juarez, the park would warrant the sort of tourist dollars they were looking for to build in El Paso and become a tourist hot-spot. Land owners of the park [Magic Landing] refused to sell to Six Flags Corp. and they in turn went to the city of El Paso to possibly get land tax free in exchange for the boom in tourist dollars.

El Paso City Counsel rejected their request.

El Paso has now lost Western Playland to Sunland Park, New Mexico.

Makes you a little mad, doesn't it?

*content has been modified by The Archivist*