Flint Twp., MI— “WE ARE COMING BACK!” reads the opening sentence of a new webpage for Pirate’s Park, a long-closed theme park in Flint Township, Mich.

The website was set up by Danen Williams, a Flint optician who began fundraising to reopen the property earlier this year.

“There’s so many people ready to help us,” Williams said. “I think they’re just waiting for me to get far enough to prove that I’m worth helping.”

Williams said he had to prove himself to potential investors and supporters because this isn’t the first push to revive the 36-acre amusement park, which opened in the early ’90s and closed gradually through the mid-2010s. 

In 2019, Flint Township was offered a $1.5 million grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to support reopening Pirate’s Park. The township ultimately turned down the grant in 2020 after a site assessment indicated the overall cost of the takeover could run around $10 million.

“It wasn’t good timing for us,” said Tracey Tucker, Flint Township’s Economic Enhancement Director, of the decision. “Financially, it was unsustainable for us—using taxpayer-funded dollars—to take on.”

Tucker said that though the township decided not to move forward, there was a lot of support for the project. 

Flint businessman Danen Williams poses for a picture in front of the old Pirate’s Park amusement park on Oct. 15, 2021. The park, located off of Miller Road in Flint Township, Mich. has been abandoned for several years. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

“The township had completed a study of residents and non-residents alike that asked how they felt about a park, would they support a park,” she said. “Usually when you do a survey, you might get 100 people to answer. We had, I think it was over 1,800 people.” 

Tucker added that “over 70 percent” of the comments from the survey were positive.

Williams had been following the township’s grant story closely, and when planners pulled the plug, he wanted to know what happened.

“That was the burning question that got me into this whole thing,” he said. 

Williams felt certain that if he opened the park in phases—starting with rehabbing the main building and opening the basic attractions like mini-golf and batting cages—he could do so with far less money than the township’s assessed cost.

Danen Williams carries his daughter Hadley Williams under a miniature golf bridge at the former Pirate’s Park in Flint Township, Mich. on Oct. 15, 2021. Williams, who has plans to reopen the park, received the keys to the property that day. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
A virtual reality ride inside the main building at the former Pirate’s Park in Flint Township on Oct. 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

“So I started harassing people with the county and Flint Township and ended up with the plans,” he said. 

Williams said those plans showed that the assessed cost included getting the entire park opened within a year. That, he said, was a costly timeline that involved a lot of unprofitable structural work that isn’t immediately necessary if the park is opened with a piecemeal approach.

Tucker explained that the grants offered to Flint Township had deadlines and land sale requirements that won’t apply for a private developer like Williams.

“Where we would have been bound by the rules that govern the grants we would have taken, he will be able to open in segments in a more sustainable way,” she said, adding that she supports the project. “If he can get it reopened, it would benefit all of the businesses in the area.”

Williams laid out his gradual reopening plan at a recent Flint pitch event, telling the judges he hopes every kid will someday have a Pirate’s Park birthday.

Nature overtakes the miniature golf course at the former Pirate’s Park in Flint Township, Mich. on Oct. 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The go-kart track at the former Pirate’s Park in Flint Township on Oct. 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Williams came in third place at the event and received $1,000 toward his estimated $3-million-dollar final goal. Though he didn’t take top prize, he said the experience showed him there is plenty of local support for the project.

“I think the community needs something like this,” he said, adding that he plans to ask supporters which parts of the park to rehab and open as funding allows.

“I want people to feel like they’re part of this project,” Williams said. “We’re going to be a nonprofit—open books—anyway, so I hope that people will want to be involved.”

Beyond pitch events, Williams has a GoFundMe listed on the park’s website to keep fundraising for the reopening. He said he has permission to start clearing debris in the coming weeks and will be hosting a virtual event in November as negotiations with the current property owners continue.

If all goes to plan, Williams said the grand reopening of Pirate’s Park will be held fall 2022 on Sept. 19.

“That’s ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day,'” he said.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

8 replies on “Flint businessman looks to reopen Pirate’s Park”

  1. I would LOVE help with this project in labor as I am a small business owner in the construction feild and a long time resident of Flint and would love to see and help this park re-open. Please if applicable forward my email and help me get in touch to lend my services. Ty so much

  2. This is still too good of a huge and beautiful property to just go to waste. It needs to reopen and AAP. It was FUN while it was open! Why did it close up?? Too many good places here closed up and this is another reason why more people have left Flint. Bring back this great park and bring the people back. I really pray that he gets this reopened. It really does need to be here. It was and still can be a bright spot on Miller Rd.

  3. Pirates Park was already closed when I first heard of it, but I have kids now of my own and would love to visit as a family. I’m wondering how big the fish are in the lake after all these years? Would it be possible to catch a few and maybe have an aquarium added to the park?

  4. wont work in the flint/flint township of today. Look at how roving bands of upstanding people behave at the mall. the psrkibg lot will turn into non stop bass bumping from cars that are in someone else’s name. its nice to think it will be family friendly but all you know what it would look like.

  5. I grew up in the 90s I was an ’80s baby I remember when Chuck e cheese was showbiz and had the animatronic dancing bears and other animatronics I can’t totally remember. And I fondly remember all the good times I had with my mom and my dad and my sisters going to pirates Park especially with my dad at the batting cages and the go-karts some of the best times I had I was so sad to see pirates Park get closed down because it was such a major part of my life. In my honest opinion it would be awesome to see it come back but I also wonder would it draw the wrong crowds would it draw crowds With how busy and fast everybody is today seems like everybody’s in a hurry to get nowhere fast but I would love to see this come back it would be great for families to spend time together birthday parties for kids again but I just wonder would the attractions be as captivating and enthralling as they were when I was a kid. I can definitely see if you added the water park back and added to it a little bit on hot summer days yes that would draw a crowd. But nowadays you have virtual reality headsets and kids are more into their cell phones and tablets and video games and you barely see any kids outside playing anymore I just don’t know it would have to have some very interesting and new attractions I think. I can see people showing up when you first open up probably for a good little while but I have a feeling that attendance would definitely start to dwindle after people I don’t know maybe get bored with it or just don’t seem to be able to find the time or deem it to be too expensive for the times we’re kind of going through right now and especially with the covid-19 I think it would be hard to have big groups of people everybody’s wearing masks it’s hot out think there’ll be a lot of fights in the parking lot I mean I hate to say it but yeah I really do I mean just look at the way people act at the mall and Walmart just out in public period it’s like people have no common sense or decency or just playing respect and courtesy for your fellow man or woman. Case in point I was at Walmart just last week just finished shopping was behind a lady with her daughter who decided she was going to go to the self checkout as well but apparently told her daughter to block the entrance to the self checkout with the cart while she went and looked at the candy and everything that was right there by the checkout while I was behind her. So be in the polite person that I am I said excuse me to her daughter because I was ready to check out her daughter did the right thing moved over to the side and said I’m sorry I said no you’re fine I walked by and as soon as I walked up to the cash register I could distinctly hear her mother yelling well not really yelling but raised her voice and was reprimanding her for moving out of my way she’s told her I told you not to move you don’t listen like what she had done was wrong and I’m telling you this lady only had to wait 2 minutes for the next register if that I was standing there trying to ring up my products shaking with disgust disdain and just angry that she could talk to her daughter like that for doing what we have all been taught we are to do if you’re not done shopping then you should not be blocking someone who is and is trying to ring up their groceries so they can leave that’s my point that was the 10th person that day that was either a rude or be damn near hit my car with their car because apparently nobody knows how to drive anymore yeah people pulling out right in front of you when there’s nobody behind you you have the people who stop dead in the road and then slowly turn either a into their store or b into the turn lane dang they’re causing accidents every time. I just don’t understand people or society anymore it’s really made me become more of a hermit or antisocial person which is not me I’m usually outgoing friendly quick to tell a joke to even a stranger just to hear somebody laugh or quick to give advice if they need it even if I don’t know them but now I find myself walking around and when those moments do happen and I have the urge to say something to somebody even nice or a piece of advice or whatever I go to speak and then I tell myself nah I don’t even want to talk to nobody because for all I know you know they might ignore me look at me like who the hell are you and it’s just that’s all you get attitude and a total lack of respect or common courtesy I mean there are still some people out there that are decent but it’s really getting down to about one out of five if not two out of eight. It really makes me sad and breaks my heart for what this world is starting to become bunch of self-centered rude people that are quick to get my hateful word fight or pull a gun then they are to comment you or just share a quick chat and laugh. My dad bought a house on Frank Street in Mott Park nice little neighborhood at least it was about 4 years ago I said probably about 4 or 5 months ago there was at least three to four drive-bys right by my dad’s house one during broad daylight while I was inside the house two cars collided and then decide they were going to have a shootout right there and later I found out by talking to some of the neighbors to the girls that I talked to Young were sitting outside on their stoop just having fun and talking and then all of a sudden the gunshots broke out what if one of them gotten shot by a stray bullet I mean there’s no hair or forethought of anybody else’s lives they just don’t care the shootings are just so horrible that it’s just got to stop otherwise this world is doomed if we all can’t get along then we’re never going to survive. Sorry for such a long post and I felt like I had to get some stuff off my chest thank you for reading this if you made it all this way and I hope you have a blessed day. 😁🤗😊 I wish everybody could just love one another like we were all close neighbors and Friends if we all good the world would be a much better place.

  6. We need pirates park back like rn bc I was 7 years old keep going until it shut down i had like 13 birthdays there and I’m mad bc it closed down when my family and I was bout to go there and noticed a sign on the door

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