The closed Ghost Town in the Sky theme park has moved a step closer to a rescue deal, with a potential new owner declaring its intention to acquire the park.
Ghost Town in the Sky is due to be auctioned off on October 25 after the current owners failed to repay debts of around ten million dollars owed to mortgage holder Branch Banking & Trust. However, part-owner Al Harper has now sold 49% of his scenic railway companies to Remodel Auction, Inc. - with the combined group declaring its intention to purchase and reopen Ghost Town in the Sky.
The rebranded company, named American Heritage Family Parks, will operate the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad and the Texas State Railroad as family attractions. Remodel Auction's founder, Clinton F. Walker, said of the deal: "Now that we have entered into these agreements we can pursue the acquisition of Ghost Town in the Sky."
Harper has been pursuing a takeover of the shuttered theme park for several months, originally agreeing a rescue deal with a bankruptcy court in May. However, he has been unable to find the required investment to fund a bid - with the Remodel Auction deal seemingly providing a solution.
In a press release, Harper said of the new venture: "The preservation and successful operation of Ghost Town in the Sky fits with our mission of making American Heritage fun and I wish them all the success in this project. Heritage Tourism is our business and this will be a growth market for years to come."
If the auction goes ahead on October 25, Ghost Town in the Sky will be sold off to the highest bidder. This could see it return to operations in 2011, if extensive repair work required to the park's attractions can be carried out it time. However, it could equally see the park's assets (including its rides) offloaded to pay off as much of its debt as possible.
The takeover deal proposed in May by Harper was a controversial one, as it would have seen the park walk away from nearly $5 million in debt - much of which is owed to local small businesses. Instead, Harper's company would have paid a total of $300,000 to small creditors, plus $105,000 to Haywood county in back taxes. The majority of the $7 million on offer would have gone to the park's largest creditor, Branch Banking & Trust.
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.