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Kentucky Kingdom (SFKK, KK) Discussion Thread

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^ Who said anything about Cedar Fair??! Kings Island is benefiting from this park being closed unless it was going to be water park only!

That's the point. Six Flags isn't going to come back to it. I think the Kochs are done with trying on this. I doubt Herschend would want it due to Dollywood and the Opryland project. The only remaining player whom has a lot of parks aside from Universal and Disney (which would never make such a move) is Cedar and they have nothing to gain from it reopening. If they want this to reopen, they need to accept the idea that they will probably loose some money on the deal, but the other choice is loosing everything when it sits like Rocky Point or Lincoln Park.

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And just like that, the Fair Board Rejects Hart's proposal...




LOUISVLLE, KY (WAVE) - Plans to reopen the defunct Kentucky Kingdom are moving forward again. The State Fair Board, on the suggestion of Governor Steve Beshear, is looking for proposals to find the right person to get those coasters rolling again.


The decision comes on the same day they denied a proposal from the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Commission. It's a group that includes businessman Ed Hart, who was an original operator of the park back in the 1980s and tried unsuccessfully to reopen it in 2010.


Board Chairman Ron Carmicle said having Ed Hart's group take over the park is not out of question, but right the board and the Governor have decided to start the process of reaching out to all parties interested in operating the part. "Let's have everybody step up that is interested in doing some kind of amusement center out here and we'll evaluate those and see if anything works," said Beshear.


The board says that can also include a proposal from Ed Hart and the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Commission, even though they are not accepting their $40 million plan to reopen the park by 2014. "To suggest for a moment that there's parties out there that aren't aware Kentucky Kingdom has been closed for three years and they're going to jump forward now is a little disingenuous," said Hart when he learned of the board's decision.


While Board Chairman Carmicle said he's encouraged to know Hart's group is interested, Beshear says that $40 million isn't what it appears. He said they're only putting up $10 million and the state would have to give a $30 million loan. "If they don't want to guarantee it, but they want the tax payers to it kind of raises a question or two in my mind."


Hart said he has questions too, but about the state's intentions. "That $30 million is buying equipment and rides they can use as collateral for the loan." Hart said he's unsure if he'll resubmit his proposal. He said he wants to talk it over with his partners, including Bruce Lunsford, Mary Mosley and Ed Glasscock first.


Beshear and the board said they're optimistic they'll find the right operator for this round, but if not, while the board won't say what could happen, Beshear laid it out pretty clearly. "We need to plan for our future. I think it's time to as I say fish or cut bait."


Fair Board President Harold Workman said he's confident this time they'll find someone by the end of the year because they have the state working with them at the beginning of the process, rather than the end. Both Hart and the Koch family, owners of Holiday World, said they backed out of their past deals because of issues with the state's incentives.


Hart still has a pending lawsuit over that first attempt to reopen Kentucky Kingdom and said he doesn't know if his group will submit again.

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The board really seems to be playing with fire here. How long has this hole saga been going on? A little too long if you ask me. I can understand them wanting whats financially best for them and the state. But they also must realize that the longer they take, the more expensive it will be to bring the park back to an operational condition.

Edited by Stitch_101
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Kentucky Kingdom may be running out of time.


Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday that by the fall the state may give up on using its property at the Kentucky Exposition Center for an amusement park. And less than 24 hours after proposing a $40 million investment to reopen the park in 2014, former park operator Ed Hart said he was rethinking the offer.


“I think it’s time we figure out whether an amusement park is in our future or not here. We’ve tried, we’ve tried,” Beshear said Thursday morning in an interview, before attending the commodity breakfast that opened the Kentucky State Fair. “Things just don’t seem to come together.”


The amusement park was abandoned after the 2009 season, and while investors have stepped forward - including another group this week - the rides have sat idle, with weeds growing around them. Six Flags abandoned the park lease with the Kentucky State Fair Board amid a bankruptcy filing in early 2010.


At Beshear’s direction, the fair board at a meeting later Thursday voted to issue a request for formal offers from companies interested in trying to resurrect the shuttered park.


The fair board’s decision to seek competitive proposals left Hart “very disappointed.”


Hart said in an interview that he isn’t sure he is interested in joining what is expected to be a competitive process and expressed serious concerns about further delays in opening the park that the process will produce.


“We do not have the luxury of time,” Hart said. “It will take every bit of 18 months to get the park opened. Any delay in selecting an operator could cause the park’s opening to be pushed back yet another year, to 2015. In the meantime, the park continues to deteriorate, making the reopening more expensive and more difficult.”


Hart and three partners on Wednesday afternoon offered to invest $40 million to reopen the fairgrounds ride and water park.


Fair board president Harold Workman said the fair board and state Finance & Administration Cabinet officials probably can prepare the request for proposals within 30 days, after which a 30- to 45-day period will be set aside for submissions. The fair board and finance officials would then probably select a preferred developer and try to negotiate a lease for the park.


Workman and fair board Chairman Ron Carmicle both said they expect multiple companies to bid on running the park. They said the fair board received several expressions of interest from potential operators after a deal with the Koch family, owners of Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., recently fell through.


The request for proposals comes two months after the Koch family abruptly walked away from plans to redevelop the park.


Speaking Thursday following a speech at the Galt House, Beshear said he didn’t fault the fair board for waiting until now to seek proposals for the park.


“I think everyone was regrouping after the Holiday World situation fell apart,” the governor told reporters. “I honestly think we probably would have been better off if we’d issued an RFP back when we first started talking” with Hart in 2010.


Beshear said he welcomed Hart’s newest proposal, but he also raised questions about the offer that calls for a $10 million investment and $30 million in loans that would be guaranteed by the state.


The loan guarantee by the state would put “the taxpayers on the hook,” Beshear said. “I don’t know how interested the taxpayers would be in the state taking that kind of risk.”


Beshear said the loan may seem risky to Hart’s group “because they don’t want to guarantee them, I guess, and that always makes you hesitate.”


Beshear said he hopes for a proposal where some entity wants to invest in and operate the property and share in the profits.


“We will put in our part,” he said. “We’ll have tourism tax credits, and the great thing about them is they’re performance based. … I think I like that kind of approach.”


But Beshear said if no amusement project works, the state needs to figure out something else to do with the land.


The fair board abruptly cut off negotiations with Hart in October of 2011 on his initial attempt to reopen the theme park. Workman said Hart had made unacceptable demands but never detailed them. Hart led a group that operated Kentucky Kingdom in the 1990s.


In his new offer, which fair board officials Thursday characterized as the “outline” of a proposal and not a formal proposal, Hart is joined by three prominent Louisvillians -- Mary Moseley, head of the Al J. Schneider Co., frequent Hart business partner Bruce Lunsford and Ed Glasscock, a local lawyer and civic leader.


They are doing business as Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Co. Hart said the new plan requires tourism tax credits that are available to developers of projects that promote tourism. The developer can reclaim some of their costs through a rebate of sales taxes the projects generate.


The Hart group’s plan asks for the state guarantee of the $30-million bank loan because the state would continue to own all of the assets, including any improvements made by Hart’s group. The theme park land, 57 acres, and equipment were appraised in 2011 as being worth at least $22 million “as is.”


In a letter to fair board chairman Carmicle Wednesday, Beshear said that any proposal to operate Kentucky Kingdom “should not presume that the commonwealth would make a significant capital investment in the property, as no authority exists for commitment of state funds for this purpose.”


In interviews after the fair board meeting, Marcheta Sparrow, Beshear’s tourism secretary and proxy on the fair board, and Workman both expressed doubts about the state’s legal ability to guarantee any theme park debt in case of default.


Sparrow said state law appears to prohibit an administration from committing state funds beyond the current biennium.


Hart said he and his partners will have to discuss whether to pursue the theme park deal under the request for proposal process planned by the fair board. But Carmicle said he would “highly encourage Hart to participate in the” request-for-proposal process.


In light of the expected new delays created by the competitive process, Moseley said that “we believe it is imperative to get Kentucky Kingdom reopened as soon as possible. It’s been closed for three years. We can’t wait any longer. Without Kentucky Kingdom, the hospitality and convention business could suffer.”


Lunsford added, “The state’s own economic impact study indicated that a reopened Kentucky Kingdom was a boon to the state’s economy. Why wouldn’t the state guarantee a loan for the development of its own property?”

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If I was Hart - I wouldn't touch the deal with a 10 foot pole at this point. Who, in their right mind, would want to work with this fair board. They are doing an RFP NOW? After no fewer than THREE OFFERS to re-open the park. I'm sorry - there is something incompetent or shady goin on there.


As much as I'd like to see the park re-open...under these idiots, nothing good would come of it.

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$10 million investment and $30 million in loans that would be guaranteed by the state.


They're basically trying to steal $30 million from the state...

Edited by Jew
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These people want to play pointless games they should have played back in 2010, now they need to get it in their heads that they likely have one of three choices:

1. Ed Hart.

2. Someone no one has heard of before whom has little to no track record (ala the people whom have tried to reopen SFNO).

3. Scrapping it.


They will either have to get it that they will either have to put some money down to get it to reopen, or spend money to tear it down.

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The Kentucky State Fair Board voted Thursday to go through a formal process to find another company to run the former amusement park at the state-owned Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, despite another proposal being presented to the fair board a day earlier by former park operator Ed Hart.


At its regular monthly meeting, the fair board, which manages the expo center, unanimously approved issuing a request for proposals for an operator to take over the former Kentucky Kingdom theme park, which has been closed for nearly three years.


Governor wanted RFP


Ron Carmicle, chairman of the Kentucky State Fair Board, said the board had sought guidance about Kentucky Kingdom from Gov. Steve Beshear. As a result, he said, he was called to Beshear’s office on Wednesday and the governor gave him a letter that requested that the board issue an RFP for a park operator. Carmicle said he was aware that Hart’s group dropped off an outline of a proposal at 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday and said he had read the outline. But he said the board will not consider Hart’s latest proposal unless Hart submits a plan through the RFP process. If the board considered it separately from other responses, he said, it “may taint the RFP process.”


Beshear said that, for some time, he has been uncomfortable with the fact that the fair board did not go through the RFP process in its earlier attempts to secure a lease and operating agreement for the former Kentucky Kingdom property. At this point, he said, it is important to “cast a wide net” and determine whether it remains economically feasible for an operator to reopen the amusement park. “We need to determine whether an operation like that is going to be in our future … whether it is feasible, whether folks have enough interest in it to think that they can make a profit at it,” he said. “And we need to determine that one way or another. If not, if we can’t find anybody that can make us a good deal, I think we need to move on and decide what else we can do with that property.”


Hart said in a Thursday morning interview that he is not necessarily interested in participating in the RFP process because he believes it would cause a delay and his group’s goal is to open in 2014. Hart, through his Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Co., previously tried to secure a lease agreement with the fair board to redevelop and run the park. The board cut ties with Hart in September 2011 after 18 months of negotiations.


The former Kentucky Kingdom closed in 2009. Previous park owner Six Flags Inc. abandoned its lease there in February 2010 amid bankruptcy proceedings. Park rides reportedly have not received proper maintenance and care since that time.


Hart proposes $40 million investment


The board’s decision to issue an RFP comes two months after the Koch family, owners of the Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari amusement park in Santa Claus, Ind., abruptly withdrew their plan to redevelop the park. They had planned to reopen it as a venue called Bluegrass Boardwalk. Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc. CEO Natalie Koch said in a June 15 news release that “many layers of governmental regulations and stipulations” led to the decision to abandon the project. The Koch family has declined to comment further.


Hart’s proposal calls for a $40 million investment, with $10 million in cash provided by the partners and a $30 million bank loan that would be guaranteed by the state. Hart’s partners in the proposal are Mary Moseley, CEO of The Al J. Schneider Co.; Bruce Lunsford, CEO of Lunsford Capital and a partner with Hart in Hart-Lunsford Pictures LLC; and Ed Glasscock, chairman emeritus of Frost Brown Todd LLC law firm. They have joined Hart’s redevelopment company as members, he said. Hart said his group proposed a lease that would be similar to “the Holiday World lease.” The agreement with Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc. was for a 50-year lease with a base rent of $400,000 per year, beginning in 2013, and escalated amounts until 2016, when the base amount would have risen to $1 million annually.


Hart group would be considered


Beshear said Hart’s group would be welcomed to participate in the RFP process, which he expects to last about 45 to 60 days. He added that he would not be comfortable with a proposal that requires a significant investment from the state or would require the state to assume the bulk of the risk for the investment. Specifically, he noted that the Hart proposal calls for the state to guarantee a $30 million loan. “I don’t know if the taxpayers want to do something like that or not,” Beshear said. “But we are going to be open to all comers in terms of proposals, and we are going to just take them and review them and see if anything make sense.” Beshear also said he is not sure the park could reopen in 2014, even under Hart’s proposal.


Fair board president Harold Workman said he expects the RFP will be issued in about two weeks. He added that he would expect Hart’s group to respond to the RFP. Asked whether other operators might be interested in running the park, he said he received multiple inquiries from interested parties after Bluegrass Boardwalk pulled out of the project. Workman said it would difficult to estimate how many responses might be submitted. “We’re just looking for one great opportunity.” Companies interested in responding to the RFP will be able to make site visits and inspect the property and the rides before making their proposals, Workman said.

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  • 4 weeks later...



State government is looking for developers interested in operating a theme park at the Kentucky Exposition Center.


A “request for proposals” was issued Monday by the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet on behalf of the Kentucky State Fair Board, which oversees the state-owned fairgrounds in Louisville where the former Kentucky Kingdom amusement park has sat shuttered since 2009. Responses are due in Frankfort by 4 p.m. Oct. 19. Fair board President Harold Workman expects multiple responses and he has received expressions of interest from several unnamed potential theme park operators in recent months.


One response was promised Tuesday by a group led by Louisville businessman Ed Hart, who was Kentucky Kingdom’s chief executive for about a decade prior to its sale to the Six Flags organization in 2000. Hart negotiated with the fair board for months about reopening Kentucky Kingdom, before Workman cut off talks last October.


After that, the owners of Holiday World made a try at operating a fairgrounds park before dropping the effort.


Then earlier this summer Hart announced yet another attempt to reopen the park, this time with new partners in a company he calls Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Co. Instead of negotiating exclusively with Hart, however, the fair board last month voted to solicit interest from all potential operators.


Hart’s new partners are Mary Moseley, the head of Al J. Schneider Co., which owns the Galt House and other local office and hotel properties; Bruce Lunsford, Hart’s frequent business partner and fellow investor; and Ed Glasscock, a retired lawyer and civic leader.


Hart said he wants to reopen the park in 2014. Hart’s group would put $10 million in equity into the park and then borrow another $30 million.


The request for proposals will be evaluated by a committee selected by the finance cabinet, but the decision on the vendor by state Finance Secretary Lori Flanery will be final.


The document lists these “deal breakers — prohibitions”:

  • Any response will not be evaluated if it relies on funds to be appropriated by the General Assembly.
  • The response cannot propose any private ownership interest in any of the property located on the park grounds. All the land and improvements are owned by the state and must remain state property.
  • The response cannot mandate that the state be responsible for curing any default on behalf of the operator.

The responses are to include a financial plan and an operational plan that “describes the respondent’s general vision and implementation scheme.” The responses are to include proposed terms for a lease and states that tourism tax incentives and local financial incentives would be available on a negotiated basis.

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So the state wants a private developer to come in, give them ZERO assistance for land that they own, make them FULLY pay to repair rides the state owns and has done NOTHING to maintain, not give the developer ANY ownership/property rights for their investment, and then sit back and rake in money from a lease that will make it VERY difficult for a developer to make their money back a grow the business, all while not agreeing to back the developer when it does fail because the state sets them up for it? Riiiiiight.


And Ed Hart STILL wants in? He should probably check his ego at the door...

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^I really don't think it is ego. The man operated the park for seven seasons after rescuing it from its initial bankruptcy season (look at Hard Rock Park as an example of a place with a change in hands that didn't work anywhere near as well). He's submitted two bids already for the park and is insistent on submitting a third.


Yes, businessmen are in business to make money, but I think Hart deserves the benefit of the doubt that his persistence is less driven by his wallet and more driven by his personal interest (and history) with the park. I could be totally wrong, but I see all that he has tried to do for this park from the beginning of his involvement back in 1989 to now, I like to believe that if it was really about the money, he would've moved on to a more profitable, easily recoverable project than this one.

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My main issue with Ed Hart is he sunshines pumps his prior record there with all the capital additions (T2, Chang, Thunder Run, Hell-A-Vater, Mile High Falls, Twisted Sisters, etc.), but fails to point out that KK could not have sustained that kind of growth for much longer. Attendance would have started to go flat (like it really does for all regional parks), yet his expenses would continue to rise. How was he going to increase revenue than? How is he going to do it now? You can't "Build it and they will come" forever, and he has never talked about his plan for when that happens. He faces a much different atmosphere now, with the tremendous growth Holiday World has had, with Kings Island no longer handcuffed by a movie studio, and even with Beech Bend making a huge transformation the last half decade or so.


He blames Six Flags for not continuing his agressive expansion while not admitting that they DID keep it up at so many of their parks and it landed them in Chapter 11.

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^ I agree, I think Ed's interest is souly that he really cares for the park and wants to see it become great again. I also agree that they are asking WAY to much from potential investors given the huge degree of risk for the park, while offering little to nothing back in return.


But I think that is the problem. There is WAY too much emotion surrounding this park and its existence. At the end of the day, it is a business. Either it is sustainable or not - no emotion involved.

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^ Can't say I completely agree with that. Yes its a business, I understand that. But where would Disneyland be had Walt not poured his heart into the park? Where would Kenobels be, or Canobie? Yes it's a business, but ask the owners of any of those parks and I'm sure they will all tell you they are more then just "parks" to them and there family. Sometimes it's good to be emotionally invested.


That all said, I think they should find an alternative for the site. I think they should just let KK rest in peace.

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