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The bankrupt Ghost Town in the Sky theme park has edged another step closer to a rescue deal, with its potential new owners hoping to reopen the park in time for the 2011 season.

A deal by part-owner Al Harper to sell 49% of his scenic railway company to Remodel Auction has now been completed, with the combined group now hoping to seal the purchase of Ghost Town in the Sky. Following the $20 million deal, the combined group has been renamed as American Heritage Family Parks, and will operate the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad and the Texas State Railroad as family attractions

Steve Shiver, the former president of Ghost Town in the Sky, has been as president and CEO of American Heritage Family Parks. Shiver and Harper presided over the reopening of the Maggie Valley, North Carolina park in 2007 following a previous bankruptcy, but failed to prevent its closure from ongoing financial problems in 2009.

In a press release, Shiver said of the deal: "Its an exciting time for all of us. It allows us to focus our energies now not only on our top priority, which is to buy Ghost Town in the Sky, but also on the synergies and relationships that come with other properties that we now have interest in."

Although American Heritage Family Parks hopes to expand its range of attractions, Shiver is clear that its initial priority is to reopen the park in time for its 50th anniversary: "Obviously Ghost Town is our extreme and immediate focus and we remain committed to that," said Shiver. "We will continue to aggressively pursue the acquisition of the park, with intentions of opening in 2011 for a 50 years celebration."

Ghost Town in the Sky was initially due to be sold off to the highest bidder in an auction on October 25, but proceedings have been put on hold while the prospective rescue deal is negotiated. If the purchase does go through, significant repair work will be required to the park's rides in order for it to reopen in 2011.

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