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Former owner Hart agrees Kentucky Kingdom lease deal, plans to reopen theme park in 2014

Kentucky Kingdom entrance
The long-running saga of Kentucky Kingdom's rescue appears to be nearing a conclusion. Image: Steve Magruder, Wikimedia Commons (license)

Former owner Ed Hart's Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company has finally agreed a lease deal for the shuttered theme park, and plans to reopen it by summer 2014.

The Kentucky State Fair Board, which owns the Kentucky Kingdom site, agreed the deal at a meeting on January 24. However, Hart must still secure financing to fund the refurbishment and reopening of the park, which has been closed since 2009. The Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company has been given 90 days to confirm that is has sufficient funds lined up to carry through its proposals.

The Louisville Courier-Journal features details of Hart's plans, reporting that KKRC itself will invest $20 million, with a further $25 million to be borrowed from a Kentucky-based bank. This will enable an expansion to Kentucky Kingdom's water park, as well as the refurbishment of existing theme park rides and the addition of new ones.

As had been promised by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, no taxpayer money will be used to fund the redevelopment of Kentucky Kingdom. The breakdown of a previous rescue deal between Hart and the Fair Board in October 2011 had been blamed on Hart seeking revenue guarantees from the state that could not be met, although Hart himself denied this.

The Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company's original plans for the park involved spending an initial $23 million to bring many of the park's current roster of attractions back into operations. This would have included the immediate reopening of T2, the first Vekoma Steel Suspended Looping Coaster to open in the US. Changes are expected to be made to these plans as a result of the new deal.

Kentucky Kingdom has been closed since the end of the 2009 season, following a failure by former operator Six Flags to agree changes to the park's lease. The Fair Board claimed at the time that the company proposed that it pay no rent for the remaining nine years on the lease - instead offering a cut of any potential future profits.

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