The closed Kentucky Kingdom theme park will not reopen until at least 2012, after delays in securing funding for a rescue deal.
Former owner Ed Hart had proposed a $50 million program of investment to prepare the park for a reopening date in 2011. However, the State Fair Board, which owns the Kentucky Kingdom site, has not been able to put in place a tax-free bond in time for work to begin ahead of the 2011 season.
According to the Courier-Journal, a planned presentation from Hart on his plans for Kentucky Kingdom has been pushed back until March, having originally been scheduled for this week. This will give the board time to recommend that the state's General Assembly approve the required bonds when it reconvenes in January.
Hart, who rescued the park from a previous bankruptcy in 1989, said of the delay: "Kentucky Kingdom is like a small city. It takes time to prepare it for opening. You can't just flip a switch and turn it on. We share in the disappointment that the park will not be ready to open next spring. For our part, we are proud to be the operator of choice and will certainly do our best to bring Kentucky Kingdom back as soon as is reasonably possible."
Despite some state representatives expressing doubts that state lawmakers will approve such a large bond during an economic downturn, State Fair Board president Harold Workman remains confident. Speaking at the Kentucky Exposition Center, he said: "Every public official we have met with supports the park’s reopening."
The first hurdle in reopening the park has been cleared, with a federal bankruptcy court having approved a deal between the Fair Board and former operator Six Flags. The agreement 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. The board says it will share ownership of the rides and property with Hart, providing collateral for $3 million that he has already paid towards the project.
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. Around $30 million of the funds that Hart has requested 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.
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.