Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay

There are many parks that, although they once delighted guests, have since closed their gates. From Six Flags New Orleans which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina to Geauga Lake and Wildwater Kingdom in Ohio, we have sadly seen some great parks permanently shuttered. However, there is a park that was closed for years and was given a second chance.

Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom closed its gates in November of 2009 and was later announced to be closed permanently, but it was given a second life, under new ownership, and welcomed guests once again 5 years later. Let’s look at the journey and comeback of Kentucky Kingdom.

Kentucky Kingdom
Image: Kentucky Kingdom

Kentucky Kingdom originally opened in 1987 as an extension of the Kentucky State Fair. The park is located adjacent to the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky, where the Kentucky State Fair is held. The original park wasn’t impressing guests as it mainly had rides geared toward children. Sadly, due to the low attendance, the park went bankrupt after only one season and the park’s rides were auctioned off.

Fortunately, new investors purchased the park in 1989, and the park reopened in 1990. The park was expanded, and many new attractions were added including a waterpark eventually called Hurricane Bay opened in 1992. From 1990-1998 the park experience saw some of the largest growth of any theme park in the United States at the time including 5 roller coasters and a drop-tower attraction.

Kentucky Kingdom
Image: Kentucky Kingdom

From 1998-2009, the park was operated under the ownership of Six Flags.  However, in 2007 tragedy struck when a teenage girl suffered a leg amputation following a cable malfunction on the drop tower attraction, Superman: Tower of Power. The ride was permanently closed following the incident. However, this wasn’t the only issue to plague the park. Due to Six Flags’ increasing debt and costs of operations, a section of the park was closed for over a year, and one of the park's most popular roller coasters was removed. This was the beginning of the end for Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.

The park closed for the season in November of 2009, and by February of 2010, it was announced that the park was closed for good. However, in the summer of 2010, Kentucky Kingdom was under the new ownership of Kentucky Kingdom and its waterpark. Unfortunately, over the next several years the park was plagued with a lawsuit and a failed deal with the Koch family, the owners of Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari. This led the park to sit closed for nearly 5 years. Eventually, in May of 2014, the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company was able to reopen the park.

Since its reopening, Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay have continued to expand and add new attractions. At their opening in 2014, new children’s rides were added to the park, including new attractions at the waterpark. The park’s main opening attraction was Lightning Run, a brand-new steel coaster. Over the next 2 years, Kentucky Kingdom added many other new attractions including reopening the United States' first Vekoma suspended looping coaster, T2 under a new name, T3.

Lightning Run, Kentucky Kingdom
Image: Kentucky Kingdom

However, the most impressive addition to the park has been Storm Chaser. Storm Chaser is a Rocky Mountain Construction steel coaster that used the remnants of the Twisted Twins coaster. Storm Chaser opened in 2016 and features high-speed twists and several airtime moments that will literally have you flying out of your seat. It also includes 3 inversions.  

Storm Chaser
Image: Kentucky Kingdom

Kentucky Kingdom now features 6 roller coasters and over two dozen family-friendly and thrilling flat rides. Hurricane Bay includes several water slides, a water playground, two wave pools, and two lazy rivers. The park continues to remain popular with locals, and in 2021, the majority partner and operator of Kentucky Kingdom became the Herschend Family Entertainment, the owners of Dollywood and Silver Dollar City. Under this new management, hopefully, Kentucky Kingdom will continue to grow and thrive after getting its second chance to delight guests.


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