Oklahoma’s Frontier City & Their Checkered Safety History
OKC's Frontier City and Oklahomans have a love/hate relationship. It's the only theme park in the state, but a majority of residents opt instead to travel to larger cities when looking for roller coaster fun.
Why? Because it's a been there/done that type of place... at least that's the general consensus online.
I'll be honest with you, much like every kid that aimlessly stared out the window of the car in the days before smartphones, nothing was more exciting to me than driving past that big loop of the Silver Bullet there on I-35. Like clockwork, all three of us kids would begin the art of the deal.
"Can we stop in for just a while?"
"I want to ride that!"
"Why don't we ever do anything cool as a family?!?"
Living in Northern Oklahoma and having all of our extended family in Southwest Oklahoma, we would pass that glorious steel dragon at least twice each year, but you know how theme parks are with little kids... a veritable nightmare.
Eventually, we did get to go around the time I was ten or eleven, and it was awesome for me and probably expensive and exhausting for mom and dad. My oldest sister Jeni gave me the courage to ride the Silver Bullet, it was awesome. There was a blackout coaster inside a building at the time that was also pretty stellar, and I learned quickly that the pirate ship is not for me. It was fun, but I was so sick from the floating stomach feeling that normally only happens for microseconds when driving over a hilly county road.
We went back a few years later for their Fright Fest... it was pretty epic, but I can't really think of a third excuse to return decades later. I can only assume that's how everyone else feels too. Been there, done that.
Ironically, out of curiosity, I ended up on the OSHA website looking at one thing but I stumbled across a massive list of Frontier City violations and fines.
If you're not familiar, OSHA is the Occupation Safety and Health Administration. A ruling government body that resulted from the horrific and dangerous working conditions of yesteryear... Remember hearing about all those guys that died and were buried within the concrete walls of the Hoover Dam? Yeah, this is the result.
OSHA normally shows up to various workplaces, especially those in manufacturing or places where danger is, and they make sure businesses are doing the absolute minimum to protect their workers. Most of the time these inspections are routine and scheduled, but the last Frontier City inspection was brought about by the complaints of workers, and boy was that list of infractions long...
36 different safety infractions were found at Oklahoma's amusement park. Everything from basic stairway maintenance to fall protection, guest safety, and general maintenance. While it sounds more or less like a good old fashion bureaucratic red tape government shakedown, the finer details paint a more ominous picture...
A lack of fall protection, harnessing issues, mechanical issues alongside wiring and electrical violations all categorized in the imminent "risk of death or injury" column next to "management knew about the hazard" and refused to resolve the issue prior to the surprise inspection.
It doesn't paint a flattering picture of our only amusement park, does it? Those at the top knew about the issues but took no action to safeguard workers, or just ignored the complaints in that really common out-of-touch-with-what-really-goes-on type of way... You know, the difference between leaders and managers, that type of thing.
I know I've had a roof leak in my office for the better part of a decade. That one ceiling tile that it drips on has developed a ridiculously dark/black moldy-looking growth, but every manager I've had over the years has either been nonchalantly old-school and cavalier with their "Don't worry about it" attitudes, or I hit a wall with the request to fix it when they reply "Well, it'll cost too much money. Deal with it."
I imagine most businesses probably operate like that in America, but that's why OSHA exists... to protect workers from clueless, bottom-line-priority management.
While the Frontier City/OSHA story is a curious and worrisome one, it's worth noting that these issues have since been resolved and nothing new has come about since summer 2021 when the case was officially closed.
Does that mean that Frontier City is safe again? I don't know... Odds are the management there is likely staying on top of things since it cost Six Flags Inc $50k+ in fine plus the costs to fix everything noted. Add in the lack of headlines from bodily injuries or death, I'd say it's probably OK to go there and do that at least once in your lifetime.