A U.S. bankruptcy court has approved a rescue bid for the bankrupt Ghost Town in the Sky theme park, paving the way for it to reopen for the summer 2010 season.
The takeover offer was made last month by Al Harper, one of the primary existing owners of the Maggie Valley, North Carolina park. His newly-formed American Heritage Family Park LLC will pay $7 million to the park's largest creditor, Branch Banking & Trust, while leaving smaller creditors with just a fraction of their total owings.
The approval of the deal by Judge George Hodges means the park will avoid foreclosure proceedings which could have seen it sold off to highest bidder as early as June. All parties will be given time to consider the deal, but the judge has granted the park permission to open for business for the summer season.
Despite the court's decision, the new owners still face a race against time to get the park up and running for the 2010 season. In addition to hiring staff - having failed to pay wages towards the end of the 2009 season - the park must also contend with a major mudslide which occurred in February. The federal government is spending at least $1.3 million to repair the slide area, but the owners are still likely to face costs and a race against time to repair affected areas inside the park.
The takeover deal is a controversial one, as it will see the park walk away from nearly $5 million in debt - much of which is owed to local small businesses. Instead, it will pay a total of $300,000 to small creditors, plus $105,000 to Haywood county in back taxes.
Harper was one of the three owners who bought Ghost Town in the Sky in 2006, some 4 years after a previous bankruptcy forced its closure. However, the park plunged back into bankruptcy in November 2009, just two years after reopening.