Longtime residents of the Houston metro area will no doubt remember the Flagship Hotel. Jutting out on a pier from Galveston Island's seawall, it was the only hotel in North America situated entirely over a body of water. Hurricane Ike all but destroyed the hotel in 2008, and it was completely torn down two years later at the same time as Landry's announced plans to build an amusement park on the razed site.
The news may have annoyed many a Houstonian, who surely had visions of the pillaged and tourist-plagued Kemah Boardwalk in their minds (another Landry's waterfront project). But the amusement park that Tilman Fertitta's empire has in mind for the pier actually has its roots deep in Galveston's own history.
The original Galveston Pleasure Pier was the largest of its kind in the country, where national acts played nightly in the Marine ballroom and guests enjoyed a variety of midway games, rides and other attractions. Built in 1943, the amusement park itself was destroyed by another fierce storm -- Hurricane Carla -- and then razed to build the Flagship Hotel in the 1960s. In this ironic twist, the new Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is a return to the site's roots as a popular tourist attraction.
In keeping with the original Pleasure Pier's main attractions, the revamped Landry's version will feature plenty of rides, midway games and even a Ferris wheel at the very end of the 1,130-foot pier at 25th and Seawall. It's no Navy Pier, but Galveston is no Chicago. And that's all right with Mayor Joe Jaworski, who hopes the amusement park will enhance Galveston's unique and historic identity along the Gulf of Mexico.
"The City of Galveston's commitment to enhancing our Seawall experience has now been improved upon by one of Galveston's own," stated Jaworski in a press release, referring to the fact that Landry's CEO Fertitta was island-born and -bred. "Galveston is back and better than ever, and the Seawall is leading the way," Jaworski continued.
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In addition to rides, games and other attractions, the Pleasure Pier will also feature a variety of restaurants -- just like the Kemah Boardwalk (so expect them to be Landry's-owned, as well). Next to the parking lot and main entrance, Fish Tales -- which is already open -- will serve Gulf seafood, steaks and pastas. And an enormous Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. will open in May, with room for 350 guests inside or out.
Another tired Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.? Maybe the new Pleasure Pier isn't so different from Navy Pier after all. Either way, you'll have to wait until May to find out, when the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier opens this summer.