Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Hart rescues Kentucky Kingdom

Ed Hart, who formerly owned Kentucky Kingdom, is expected to negotiate a lease agreement for the Kentucky amusement park, which Six Flags announced plans to withdraw from earlier this year.

Via his Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Co (KKRC) vehicle, Hart hopes to have the park open by late May 2011. Six Flags still owns about 15 acres of the park, and the Kentucky State Fair board officials are continuing to negotiate a purchase of that land from the theme park chain.

KKRC has recruited a proven redevelopment and operations team which has succeeded in turning around two previously failed theme parks, Magic Springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and the original Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, Kentucky.

The original Kentucky Kingdom closed in 1987 after only one season of operation and Hart’s team reopened the facility in 1990, growing it from 10 to the current 60 acres and increasing attendance more than ten-fold from 100,000 to 1.3 million annual guests. In 1997, the park was sold for $79 million to Premier Parks, which later became part of Six Flags Inc. Six Flags filed for reorganisation under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code in June of last year and gave up its lease on the park with the Kentucky State Fair Board in February.

The State Fair Board was approached by six companies interested in running Kentucky Kingdom. Of those that visited the park, two made offers, including Hart’s group. The other group was a new company formed by former Six Flags CEO Kieran Burke. Hart’s group was chosen because of his local ties and prior success. As well as his track record in Kentucky, Hart also enjoys ongoing success with Magic Springs, which his team reopened in 2000 after five years of closure.

Preliminary plans at Kentucky Kingdom call for a reconfiguration of the property’s use including consolidation of existing rides, adding new rides and an expansion of the adjoining Splashwater Kingdom waterpark. KKRC will continue to develop an exciting, safe, well managed and well funded family attraction to complement the Kentucky Exposition Center.

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