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Kentucky Kingdom (SFKK, KK) Discussion Thread

P. 401: Herschend Enterprises named majority partner and park operator

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27 minutes ago, KIEnthusiast said:

King's Island and Cedar Point are AMAZINGGG. And guess what. They are corporate.

Yeah but those are the Cedar Fair flagship parks, meanwhile places like Michigan's Adventure get neglected.

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It's neither cheap, easy, or practical to dig a 100 foot deep tunnel. Apparently Roller Coaster Tycoon is catching on again.

Herschend was and is a different brand than Six Flags.   There is one certainty. Kentucky Kingdom will not be receiving a launched wooden roller coaster any time soon.

Yeah, I think the only 'concern' is because people see this park going more the way of Celebration City or Wild Adventures than becoming the next SDC or Dollywood.  I think it will stay pretty much th

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I feel like this is basically a lateral move. I’m interested to see what happens but I don’t really have a strong opinion on it either way right now.

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So Ed Hart took over a closed KK, dumped a ton of money into it, and flipped it to a theme park chain. Again. The last time they didn't actually sell the park either, Premier took on over $60 million in debt the park had. Isn't there video of a park official saying Storm Chaser was downsized from their original plan for it because they had not hit their attendance goals yet? Seems like maybe it has never quite got where they wanted it and Covid-19 just sped up their need to get out again.

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1 minute ago, CoasterGuy06 said:

So Ed Hart took over a closed KK, dumped a ton of money into it, and flipped it to a theme park chain. Again.

Yeah, I don't think that in 2014 they thought that they were just going to flip the park and sell it off in a few years. The main issue that KK has in the 2010s/20s that it didn't have in the 90s is that now it's in a competitive market. Back in the 90s, Holiday World was pretty small and didn't have any coasters, Opryland was closing, and King's Island wasn't really expanding as much as they have recently. By the time that KK reopened in 2014, these parks had gotten such large dominance in the region that it's more difficult to compete nowadays.

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But isn't that something they should have been aware of? 

I'll give you the Holiday World example, but KI had a bunch of capital put in to it back then too. From 1990-2009 when SF closed SFKK they added Adventure Express, Top Gun, FoF, Face/Off, Drop Zone, SOB, Italian Job, had multiple kids areas expansions and water park expansions, etc.

I know a lot of people didn't like the members of the Koch family plan to open it as a waterpark with only a few rides and no real roller coasters, but maybe the plan should have been between their plan and Ed Hart's plan: A big waterpark with a couple of roller coasters and 15-20 other rides.

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2 minutes ago, CoasterGuy06 said:

But isn't that something they should have been aware of? 

I'll give you the Holiday World example, but KI had a bunch of capital put in to it back then too. From 1990-2009 when SF closed SFKK they added Adventure Express, Top Gun, FoF, Face/Off, Drop Zone, SOB, Italian Job, had multiple kids areas expansions and water park expansions, etc.

I know a lot of people didn't like the members of the Koch family plan to open it as a waterpark with only a few rides and no real roller coasters, but maybe the plan should have been between their plan and Ed Hart's plan: A big waterpark with a couple of roller coasters and 15-20 other rides.

#1 FoF and Top Gun were built during Hart's ownership in the 90s, but ironically enough the other attractions (including the addition of Paramount's Action Zone) was in response to Six Flags buying KK in the late 90s; because at the time, people believed that Six Flags was going to greatly expand KK so it could compete better with KI.

#2 I think they were aware of it, but I don't think they had the funds to rapidly expand like they did in the 90s (even with the investments). In fact, KK was supposed to get a B&M in 2014, but they went with a Chance Rides coaster because it was cheaper. It's not that they weren't aware of it, they just couldn't do as much as they wanted to do.

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Stage is set up for the announcement today.  It's going to happen.  Fingers crossed this helps the park and employees in the long run.

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1 minute ago, tndank said:

Stage is set up for the announcement today.  It's going to happen.  Fingers crossed this helps the park and employees in the long run.

Is there a live stream for the announcement?

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4 minutes ago, realKyle said:

Is there a live stream for the announcement?

KK had a pic of the room on Instagram this morning.  No feed that I'm aware of (or expect).

 

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11 hours ago, CoasterGuy06 said:

So Ed Hart took over a closed KK, dumped a ton of money into it, and flipped it to a theme park chain. Again. The last time they didn't actually sell the park either, Premier took on over $60 million in debt the park had. Isn't there video of a park official saying Storm Chaser was downsized from their original plan for it because they had not hit their attendance goals yet? Seems like maybe it has never quite got where they wanted it and Covid-19 just sped up their need to get out again.

 

Correct - i Think that's in the Coaster Studios documentary.

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It has been officially announced that Herschend Enterprises will become a majority partner and operator of Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay! 

kentuckykingdom-coaster-hero.thumb.jpeg.30e0dfe0406c82b654e6e50bdf2132e7.jpeg

https://www.hfecorp.com/whats-new/

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear joined Herschend Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wexler, state officials and community leaders to announce that Herschend Enterprises has become a majority partner and operator of Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay amusement and water park located in Louisville, Kentucky. Georgia-based Herschend is the nation’s largest family-owned theme attractions and entertainment company. Herschend operates popular tourism attractions such as the Dollywood® Parks & Resorts in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and the Newport Aquarium® in Northern Kentucky.As a national competitor in the tourism industry, Herschend has a history of delivering world-class entertainment experiences to its guests. Through a collaborative effort between Kentucky Kingdom, LLLP, the Kentucky State Fair Board, the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, and the Finance and Administration Cabinet, Herschend will now expand its business operations to Louisville as the new majority partner of Kentucky Kingdom Theme Park, LLC. This expansion will bring enhanced entertainment and amusement park management experience that will benefit the operations at Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay.“After opening Newport Aquarium in 2008, we’ve been actively seeking an opportunity to bring even more entertainment to the great state of Kentucky and that dream begins today,” said Herschend Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wexler. “We’re honored to be welcomed into the beautiful and historic city of Louisville, and thrilled to build upon the exceptional 25-year legacy of Kentucky Kingdom.”

Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay cover a 65-acre entertainment complex that enjoys a solid reputation of being a safe and fun amusement and water park, offering visitors the convenience and value of two parks in one. The park opened to the public in 1987 following an announcement by the Kentucky State Fair Board that a theme park would be built on the grounds of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. Negotiations with Herschend Enterprises began last year for the sale of ownership interest in Kentucky Kingdom, LLLP.

“We are pleased to turn the park over to a new generation of leadership. Herschend is an outstanding operator, who will undoubtedly take Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay to the next level. We expect their involvement will add greatly to the Commonwealth’s thriving tourism industry,” said Kentucky Kingdom’s founder, President and CEO Ed Hart.

As part of its commitment to the park, Herschend Enterprises is bringing Craig Ross, Dollywood’s President for the past 10 years, to serve as Kentucky Kingdom’s interim General Manager. Ross plans to further develop Kentucky Kingdom’s exceptional 25-year legacy by tapping into his decades of family entertainment experience at one of the nation’s top theme parks. Under Ross’ leadership, Dollywood surpassed Disneyland and was named among TripAdvisor and USA Today’s best theme parks in the world.

“This is an exciting moment, and I am so honored to work alongside the community, our season pass holders, and our valued guests in building a bright future for this beloved park,” said Ross. “We strongly believe in using guest and community input to create amazing experiences and will be reaching out to the Louisville community for input on enhancements they’d like to see at the park, including attractions, shows and events. This feedback will be critical in creating a long-term plan for success and growth.”

Herschend will implement a strategic plan to expand the operation of Kentucky Kingdom Theme Park, LLC to be consistent with the guest experiences offered at other Herschend owned and managed locations. Future plans for the Louisville amusement and water park include:

  • Building the appeal for multi-generational families;
  • Hosting family-friendly seasonal and themed events and festivals;
  • Enhancing product and guest experiences through rebranding and the addition of
  • Herschend-owned programming, such as costume character appearances;
  • Expanding of the season to provide entertainment to more park guests; and
  • Building relationships with state and local tourism partners to increase awareness and entice travel to Kentucky Kingdom, Louisville and the Commonwealth.

Kentucky tourism is an $11.8 billion industry in the Commonwealth and is the third largest industry in Louisville, generating an annual economic impact of $3.5 billion. Herschend entertains more than 14 million guests per year at 25 properties located in eight states.

“Herschend’s decision to expand its operations in the Commonwealth is a reflection of the state’s reputable tourism industry and the commitment by this Administration to move Kentucky forward by investing in tourism and economic development,” said Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry. “We look forward to being a partner with Herschend to promote their vision for a newly reimagined attraction that will create a multi-generational experience that visitors across the nation will travel to Kentucky to enjoy.”

Situated at the intersection of Interstate 65 and Interstate 264, Kentucky Kingdom shares a parking lot with the Kentucky Exposition Center. The park’s location is easily accessible to visitors from Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Lexington, Nashville and St. Louis with more than 12 million people within 120-mile drive of Louisville. Further, Nashville, Indianapolis and Lexington do not have a local amusement or theme park, making the potential for attracting visitors from those areas promising.

“The financial strength and stability of any long-term tenant is of the utmost importance in protecting the Commonwealth’s financial interests,” said Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary Holly M. Johnson. “Herschend has an outstanding reputation in the theme and amusement park industry, an established financial performance, and a demonstrated ability to meet short-term and long-term obligations. Under Herschend’s leadership, the Newport Aquarium® has been ranked by USA Today as one of the top 10 aquariums in the nation, and we welcome their expanded presence in Kentucky.”

Operated by the Kentucky State Fair Board, the Kentucky Exposition Center is the sixth largest facility of its kind in the United States. Home to the Kentucky State Fair, National Farm Machinery Show, the National Archery in Schools State Tournament, and the Danny Wimmer Presents Louder than Life Festival, as well a variety of concerts, sporting events and some of the top tradeshows in the country, this state-owned venue has a national reputation for hosting an assortment of premiere events. The Kentucky Expo Center’s recognition combined with Herschend’s highly recognizable brand will create an opportunity for Kentucky to continue to expand our business and leisure travel market to generate increased travel dollars to foster the economy.

“The Kentucky State Fair Board looks forward to working with Herschend to ensure the new vision for the park is successful in Kentucky,” said Kentucky State Fair Board Chair Steve Wilson. “The Board understands the long-term value of having a nationally recognized company like Herschend in Louisville and believes that a positive economic future for Kentucky is ahead.” Known as the home of the Muhammad Ali, the Kentucky Derby, Louisville Slugger baseball, Maker’s Mark and more, Louisville is largest city in America to be designated an international compassionate city. The city prides itself on southern hospitality, and strives to be a city that is welcoming and inclusive to all guests. Louisville is known internationally for world-class tourism attractions and events. The expansion of Herschend will continue to elevate the city’s reputation as being a top travel destination for all families to enjoy.

Kentucky Kingdom is currently accepting applications to fill 1,200 job openings for the upcoming season. For more information, visit kentuckykingdom.com.

To learn more about Herschend Enterprises national entertainment and tourism attractions, visit herschendenterprises.com.

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On 2/18/2021 at 7:29 PM, swfan1988 said:

Isn't the land and rides actually owned by the State of Kentucky?

You would think if it was going to be sold, or if Herschend was going to take over the lease, then we would have heard about it by now. Also, why would the park need to tease the sale? Wouldn't they just announce it? A sale to Hershcend could explain the canceled raptor though.

I'm not saying its not happening, I'm just a little skeptical of the whole thing.

yes, the land is owned by the Fair Board. Whoever is managing the park pays a lease to the Fair Board, Six Flags felt the FB was being unfair and that's why the up and closed it. The reason why they didn't announce the Herschend take-over sooner is because it all had to go through governmental approvals beyond the Fair Board as well. I guess this is why the Raptor Coaster plans got scrapped. I've got mixed feelings, Herschend is a great family owned company but at the same time we saw how well things went when Ed sold to Six Flags. I did hear rumors of more events and more special things already being planned by Herschend so we'll see I guess.

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Wow, having Ross serve as interim GM is a good sign. At least from their press release, Herschend seems dedicated to making the park a better park. Even if it only operates at the same level that it was before, I’d say that’s still better than it closing down or having no money to invest. Now where’s the hyper coaster? 😜 

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2 hours ago, mikeykaise said:

We saw how well things went when Ed sold to Six Flags.

Herschend was and is a different brand than Six Flags.

 

There is one certainty. Kentucky Kingdom will not be receiving a launched wooden roller coaster any time soon.

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I am interested to see how this will play out. I would not expect any drastic changes this year, except possibly an expanded operating season. I am hoping they steer this park in the Dollywood/SDC direction as opposed to the Wild Adventures direction.

Regardless, Lightning Run and Storm Chaser are still enough to entice me to visit the park someday.

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29 minutes ago, thrillseeker4552 said:

I am interested to see how this will play out. I would not expect any drastic changes this year, except possibly an expanded operating season. I am hoping they steer this park in the Dollywood/SDC direction as opposed to the Wild Adventures direction.

Regardless, Lightning Run and Storm Chaser are still enough to entice me to visit the park someday.

With the major investments that Ed Hart poured in, especially with the three major new coasters which are all very unique for the area and world class, Herschend should and probably will use the next few years to upgrade the facilities, infrastructure, and name of the park. I feel that a lot of people, especially those not from Louisville, still don’t realize the dramatic positive changes that the park received, and I fear many still view it as the same park it used to be. Hopefully Herschend will alleviate some of that old baggage 

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It will be interesting to see how this develops. Being a regular SDC passholder (being my home park) it will be neat if HFEC will soon offer a Platinum Pass like Cedar Fair to visit all the Herschend owned parks. Right now it's just 50 percent off admission to Dollywood and Wild Adventures.

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Ironic that Herschend now operates both #1 and #2 golden ticket 2015 coaster winners.

7 hours ago, sdcfan88 said:

It will be interesting to see how this develops. Being a regular SDC passholder (being my home park) it will be neat if HFEC will soon offer a Platinum Pass like Cedar Fair to visit all the Herschend owned parks. Right now it's just 50 percent off admission to Dollywood and Wild Adventures.

Getting 50% off of other Herschend parks, and their passholders to KK sure would be sweet. This goes especially for between KK and Dollywood since they seem to be the somewhat easier drive between each other.

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Assuming Dollywood/SDC passes are valid at all Herschend properties?  This makes a pass for appealing to Ohio residents (me) that's for sure.  Being a majority partner and not just managing the park I hope this means reasonable cap ex spending in the future.  Like others mentioned there is always the fear of the park just turning into a Wild Adventures and never really see major (for enthusiasts) investment.  They didn't promise too much in their statement outside of expanded events and operating days.  

As long as cinnamon bread shows up I guess it can't be all that bad.  

Probably safe to assume the awesome out of state ticket deal is probably toast.  That's a bummer, 2 days and unlimited soft drinks for $30 was a steal.  

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14 hours ago, sdcfan88 said:

It will be interesting to see how this develops. Being a regular SDC passholder (being my home park) it will be neat if HFEC will soon offer a Platinum Pass like Cedar Fair to visit all the Herschend owned parks. Right now it's just 50 percent off admission to Dollywood and Wild Adventures.

That deal makes a lot of sense and typically would work better for me than Platinum. Not as good as giving away the whole thing like SF, but that makes little sense.

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