Landry’s Kicking Galveston’s Flagship Hotel Off the Pier, for Amusement

First order of business for Tilman Fertitta, now that he’s finally succeeded in turning Landry’s Restaurants back into a private company under his control (the deal closes today): announcing the demolition of Galveston’s hobbled-on-a-pier Flagship Hotel. Actually, Landry’s officials jumped the gun slightly, showing plans for a large hotel-free amusement park on the 25th St. Pier site of the shuttered hotel to Galveston’s city council yesterday. In place of the Flagship — which was built a few years after Hurricane Carla hit the island in the early sixties — yep, you guessed it: There’s gonna be a Ferris wheel. Plus: a double-decker carousel and other attractions meant to vaguely resemble the amusement park originally on the pier when it was built in 1943.


Demolishing the 225-room hotel was part of Landry’s original plans when the company bought the mermaid-sculpture-festooned property from the city for half a million in 2003. The next several years were spent trying to kick out the hotel operator, whose lease wasn’t set to expire until 2031. Landry’s reversed course after Hurricane Ike caused $7 million in damages to the hotel, eventually going to court to try to stop the operator, Daniel Yeh, from wriggling out of his lease. But 2 earlier storms ended up tossing Yeh into prison: he was eventually convicted of filing false claims to FEMA after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. And a renegotiated lease gave Landry’s control of the entire property last year.

By that time, Landry’s officials were talking about selling the property, but the mysterious prospective buyer never appeared. A year ago, the company announced new plans: it would keep the hotel, spend $15 million to renovate it, stick a Chart House restaurant inside, and build a new amusement park around it. Of those plans, only the amusement park is still standing.

The company’s plans for demolition and construction will require approvals from Galveston’s city council and zoning board. If those go through, Landry’s senior VP Jeff Cantwell tells the Daily News, work on the pier could begin before the end of the year.

Photo: Ellen Yeates

20 Comment

  • I like the idea of a pier with a big hotel on it. My family and I stayed at the Flagship one weekend when I was a kid. But I like the idea of an amusement park better–I always loved the one on the Santa Monica pier. I’m no fan of Fertitta, but I hope this project works out and benefits Galveston.

  • Wow anyone care to spend a night there before the wrecking ball comes? it’s condemned but I hear is readily accessible? I’m sure it’s a wreck.

  • I prefer the amusement park. Adds a little bit more to do on the seawall versus eat, drink, drink some more, drink, eat again, then drink.

  • Do the plans call for random white tigers? What about a train around the premises?

  • Many years ago there was an amusement park across from the seawall. It had a wonderful old carousel with hand-carved animals and benches, mirrors, painted panels, hundreds of lights, recorded calliope music. Wonder where that carousel is today?

    In a historic city like Galveston, a restored antique carousel would be a fine attraction for the new amusement pier.

  • I second the casino and the carousel. Can I ride the horsey while playing slots and being served refreshing adult beverages?

  • Landry’s not on land,
    sell gale storm rides with dinner.
    OK, Fertitta?

  • easier to replace the ferris wheel when the next hurricane blows through….

  • Fertitta ruins restaurants.. See the Rainbow Lodge for example. Makes millions by making them that much more ghetto?!? No thanks.

  • From jayc:

    “easier to replace the ferris wheel when the next hurricane blows through….”

    Interesting thought. Fertita could even sign a financing deal with the Weather Channel to rig the ferris wheel to break away in 100+ mph gusts. That will give Jim Cantore something much more exciting to cover. Maybe he could report from one of the passenger cars during the next Cat 2.

  • I’ve got to say that I’m looking forward to the sight and the sounds of an amusement park at that site! Some good Dutch engineering, and they could have a cantilevered rollercoaster balanced out over the water!
    (I mean, if they can put that revolving restaurant back in its groove, ANYTHING is possible.)

  • Tillman will separate any Pier patrons from $50-100 each, history shows.

    Too bad.

  • I am so not a fan of Tillman Fertitta, but if there is going to be an amusement park anywhere, the seawall is a good place for it. 50 years ago, there was a seawall amusement park that I quite enjoyed. If done well, and tastefully (not a Fertitta trait) it could be great.

  • Not opposed to the idea but with the seawall traffic already being horrific during the tourist season, I would like to see how they plan to handle parking and traffic flow.

  • I love the last line about “if” the city council approves. if the galveston city council had no problem approving a sulfer plant, the state prison hospital, and a national lab testing bioterrorism, not to mension all that public housing, i’m sure they won’t object to a ferris wheel replacing the decapitated myrmaid. what’s equally funny is that the sign on the peir now reads “comming soon: galveston’s historic pleasure pier”. i guess on this island, things are now considered historic even before they’re built.

  • JC, is English not your first language or are you just spelling so horrendously to try to be ‘ironic’?

  • Everybody is worried about traffic if we built something to give galveston some life thanks to fertitta we will have a reason to go to galvestone.we gave up astroworld because of greed and the still land is vacant,we should built the rail all the way to galvestone and that would help with the traffic, if you ever been to chicago the transportation system is great.

  • I agree with the writer who mentioned getting a light rail to galveston. And I also agree with the writer who said something about astroworld. If the dallas and san antonio area can manage a six flags what’s wrong with this area? Also they should have had casinos there long ago. All of these would help the economy. I just can’t figure out why galveston city officials move so slow when the island has so much more potential.

  • Kinda ironic that your article uses the words kicked off the pier as about 30 eye witnesses are fighting mad that the glass and rubble from the pier is being pushed off the pier into the Gulf of Mexico by the irresponsible demo company that was forewarned in no uncertain terms not to let anything go into the water! The statement of the forewarning I must admit was hearsay that I believe to be true. The eyewitnesses were surfing right under were this atrocity occurred. See for more