The prospective new operator of the closed Kentucky Kingdom theme park has proposed a $50 million program of investment to prepare the park for a reopening date in 2011.
Ed Hart's plan would involve the Kentucky State Fair Board funding all of the development work through a bond issue, and retaining ownership of the park's land and attractions. Hart's KK Redevelopment Company would then repay the money from the park's revenues at the rate of around $3 million per year.
Around $30 million of the funds would be spent on new attractions for Kentucky Kingdom, with the rest being used to restore the park's rides and facilities following its year-long closure. Included in the plans would be a major new rollercoaster, at a cost of between $8 million and $10 million.
In addition to the new coaster, Hart also plans to double the size of Kentucky Kingdom's water park (known as Splashwater Kingdom prior to its closure). This would see 16 additional slides added to the park, helping to convert what Hart sees as a "neglected" attraction into a major draw for guests.
Hart also hopes to learn lessons from the success of nearby Holiday World, which has garnered favor with guests by offering them free parking, free soft drinks and free sunscreen. He hopes to emulate at least some of these deals at Kentucky Kingdom, saying "One of the ways to create value is to create free parking. Besides free parking to have value pricing for food."
The State Fair Board has hired a consulting firm to review Hart's proposals, and Hart believes that the plans offer a win-win scenario for his company and the state. "They said the reopening of Kentucky Kingdom under our plan would generate $3 billion worth of economic impact over the next 20 years" he said, claiming that the park's return would also create 2,200 jobs.
In May, Hart's firm was selected ahead of a rival bid to take over the operation of Kentucky Kingdom, which has been closed throughout 2010. One legal hurdle remains for Hart and the Fair Board, with a bankruptcy court set to rule on the validity of an agreement between the board and former operator Six Flags that was struck in July. The court is presiding over the bankruptcy proceedings of Six Flags (which is now under new ownership), and the judge will make a decision on September 15.
If approved, the deal will see the Fair Board take ownership of the sixty acres of the park that are owned by Six Flags, and all but one of its rides. Six Flags will receive $2 million as part of the agreement, and will no longer be required to pay overdue rent and back taxes to the state.
Six Flags announced the closure of Kentucky Kingdom in January, following a failure to agree changes to the park's lease. The Fair Board claims that Six Flags proposed that it pay no rent for the 9 remaining years on the lease - instead offering the state a cut of any potential future profits.
The company, which runs an extensive chain of parks across North America, initially said that it intended to move many of Kentucky Kingdom's rides to those parks and to offer employees the chance to relocate.