The Kentucky State Fair Board has begun its third search for an operator for the shuttered Kentucky Kingdom theme park, after a second rescue deal collapsed.
Earlier this week, the owners of Holiday World dropped plans to reopen the park under the new name of Bluegrass Boardwalk, blaming governmental bureaucracy for the decision. The Fair Board, which owns the Kentucky Kingdom site, had previously seen a deal with the park's former operator Ed Hart break down in November 2011.
Hart has since questioned the judgement of the Fair Board, as well as suggesting that the Koch family (which runs Holiday World) had only become involved in the process in order to delay the reopening of Kentucky Kingdom. However, the board's CEO, Harold Workman, has since claimed that potential operators have already begun contacting him regarding the possibility of taking over the lease for the park.
The Fair Board, and any new operator, face significant challenges in returning the park to action. Securing financing and state tax incentives have proven to be time-consuming hurdles for both Hart and the Koch family, while Kentucky Kingdom's rides and buildings have been deteriorating since the park's last operating season in 2009.
The identities of interested parties have not yet been disclosed, although Hart has not ruled himself out of a second bid to take over the park. However, given his criticism of the Fair Board, it seems likely that the board will instead seek to line up a third potential operator in less than a year.
Kentucky Kingdom has been closed since the end of the 2009 season, following a failure by former operator Six Flags to agree changes to the park's lease. The Fair Board claimed at the time that the company proposed that it pay no rent for the remaining nine years on the lease - instead offering a cut of any potential future profits.