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PTR: Tour of Kentucky Kingdom


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Last week I was in Chicago visiting a good friend of mine who works in the industry. I mentioned that I was looking to visit Kentucky Kingdom to test out RMC's remake of Thunder Run as well as the new Lightning Run. Next thing I know a phone call was made(many thanks to my friend yet again!) and I was on my way to meet with Bill Hargrave, Kentucky Kingdoms Technical Services Operations Director, and Marketing Director John Mulcahy.

 

Having followed the re-birth of Kentucky Kingdom via the parks social media, I had an idea of what to expect. But what I didn't expect to see were the thousands of people that had packed the park, after all the only time I had visited the park was the last year it had ran and it was pretty much empty. This was quite the sight to see. If I had to guess, there were at least 500 people in line to process their season passes, a line that was steadily and quickly moving. Contrary to some reports of 4-5 hour lines, the park tells me the lines have been no more than an hour, usually less, and provide water to those waiting in line. They have 16 people processing season passes and they are the first park to offer you the opportunity to upload your photo to their website to speed up that process. If you uploaded your photo then all you need to do is pick your card up at the park. Easy.

 

This year Kentucky Kingdom added several rides and vastly expanded the water park. The expanded water park sits on the site of what was formerly occupied by Chang (for those that are not aware, it was harvested by Six Flags and relocated to their New Jersey park before they gave control of Kentucky Kingdom back to the fairgrounds during bankruptcy). The expansion area of the water park could stand on it's own featuring a mini wave pool, river, slides, a bar area, etc. So in essence you are getting two water parks and an amusement park, for the price of one admission.

 

Here are a few bullet point items before we get to the photos, which is probably what you want to see anyway.

 

[*]In 2015 T2 will re-open. Had the park been able to secure the lease sooner, it would have been open this year. Other enhancements will also be made

[*]In 2016 the back half of the park will re-open, those plans are still being finalized

[*]The park has 'Ambassadors' stationed throughout the park. These are basically customer service people who are also part of the eyes and ears for the park and communicate regularly with the parks command center. If you need something, they can help.

[*]Louisville PD is onsite and throwing out line cutters, people with saggy britches, vulgar shirts, spitting, excessive swearing, and line cutters, did I mention line cutters? They are not playing around either. I watched at least a dozen people shown the door for line cutting, misbehaving, etc.

[*]Landscaping should be in by the end of the week. The park was very concerned this was not in place opening weekend, but honestly it didn't look that bad.

[*]According to news reports over 30k people visited opening weekend (Memorial Day Weekend) and on my visit on June 1st it was estimated that about 12k people visited. A very large portion of those crowds were in the water park.

 

Ok, so lets look around!

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Welcome to the new Kentucky Kingdom

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This was the season pass processing line when I arrived around 2:30 in the afternoon. It was steadily moving, however if you didn't feel like waiting in line you could get an entry voucher from guest relations and come back at a later time.

 

Note: Parking is controlled by the fairgrounds and is NOT included in your season pass price. You can however purchase a parking pass from the fairgrounds if you so choose.

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Lets go inside, shall we?

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First stop, season pass processing. They have two areas setup for this task, each have 8 stations. This would be the main area.

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And this the secondary. Once you leave season pass processing you can either go home (why would you do that) or enter the park from season pass processing.

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This is all the park needed to do to win me over. Coca-Cola.

 

Season pass holders can enjoy a 32oz Coke for $1, likewise those who buy a souvenir bottle can do the same.

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The first new ride on our tour was from our friends at Larsen.

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And it was very popular with the locals.

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Across from Fear Fall is the newly refurbished breakdance

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John tells me they went through each and every building painting, repairing, upgrading, and doing what ever was necessary to make them functional. In total, over 100 buildings were rehabbed.

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The kiddie area received several new rides

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The tea cups weren't ready yet but were expected to be soon. Nothing wrong here at all, its just the parks priority was getting the park open. Weather played a part in the delay.

 

Behind it you see the Zeppelin which was formerly located up towards the front of the park close to where Lightning Run is today. John(who previously worked for KK) tells me the ride didn't see much business up front as it was more or less out of the way. Now it's become very popular. You should check it out, pretty cool ride.

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Zamperla was the supplier of their new kiddie rides and they are very happy with them, and so are the kids.

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You can even have your picture taken while sitting in the Kings chair

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And now we have arrived to the water park. The first thing you will notice is that you can now walk directly down to the water park, no need to zig zag down a boardwalk to get to it. Huge improvement and increased traffic flow.

 

You will also notice that the pool is PACKED.

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Thousands of people everywhere. I have to admit, I was very happy for the park, seeing this puts a smile on their faces.

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The freshly painted wheel looks stunning.

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The park also has several grassy areas in the water park that you can lay out on, don't see that in too many places!

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Now this is the old entrance to the water park where you could drive up and drop off or enter. But no more! As we turn around...

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We see this! Yup, all new.

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Here are a few of the slides they put in.

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And the new river they put in. Notice all of the stone work, this theme has been carried out throughout both the existing and new water park attractions. It looks very modern and clean, a resort feel if you will.

 

This is also where Chang use to sit.

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Turning around we find the other slide tower that was installed. The river runs around the area and drops you off at the parks second wave pool, all connected together with a waterfall.

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The wheel is the focal point of the park IMHO

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Here are more of the eateries before we make our way back to the older part of the water park

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I never knew this was here before, the waterfall looks stunning. Innertubes are provided at no charge and are required for floating this particular river.

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As you can tell, the stone theme continues

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And of course you can check out Thunder Run while you float.

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Here is another view from the bridge of the new section where Chang was.

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It really is a whole nother water park over here. And don't forget, they have free sunscreen, so don't be like me, use it.

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And they have beer and cocktails :)

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Over the river and through the woods we find...

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Mile High Falls, the ride Six Flags said couldn't be saved.

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Strange, because it looks like it's running to me!

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I see you tornado.

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And what, what is this? Thunder Run?!?!

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The ride performs exceptionally well, in fact Bill and John indicated its the best it's ever ran, ever. It has plenty of airtime and terrific forces. Highly re-ride-able unlike what it was before, a rough, hunting, bumpy ride.

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These guys looks ready to ride!

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With a fancy new sign to go with the RMC rehab work it received. This ride easily had the longest line in the park and the line the was closed off first at about 7:15pm as the lines was estimated at 1:40 Keep in mind it was originally built for single train operation, but when word got out how incredible the ride is now, people queued up to take a spin.

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This train powered by super fists

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Wow, the first drop, amazing. No need to worry about getting beat up, just throw your hands in the air and enjoy a comfortable ride.

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It is!

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RMC once again outdid themselves and proves they can pretty much fix anything. Keep up the great work guys!!

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So the bumper cars were moved near the Himalaya

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And here they are running in their new home.

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And here is the Himalaya.

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For a park that had zero soft opening and whose first day was on Memorial Day Weekend, typically one of the busiest weekend for any park, I give park operations a B. They are looking at ways to improve and are tweaking procedures daily. Within a few weeks everything should be ironed out and running smooth.

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The 5D Cinema is sponsored by LG&E who also stepped up and provided the content for the show promoting conservation.

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The only ride down in the park. Pretty good for a park that's been sitting for 5 years. Sometimes you can do all the testing in the world and find something out during the course of operation that needs to be corrected.

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Mmmmm, tacos.

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So the bumper cars use to be straight out there, with them gone, the area is opened up.

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And we can't forget about our Credit Whores.

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You will enjoy a freshly painted and refurbished Roller Skater.

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Finally we checked out the Chance Rides Inc Lightning Run

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It looks like a baby ride

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But it isn't.

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It certainly has that Chance feel to it.

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And provides some nice forces

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And pops of air

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The line did spill outside of the queue which appeared to be designed for about a 30 minute wait, but everyone wrapped in front of the not yet opened BBQ restaurant. From the tailend of the line in front of the BBQ place, it took about 40 minutes to queue. Not bad really.

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Standing in line.

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Entry. RIP Anton.

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2 test seats for you testing pleasure.

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Happy riders returning. Hopefully we will see more of these compact rides in the near future.

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In closing I just want to say the park has only been open a handful of days after being closed for years and a long battle with the fairgrounds to re-open. They had a short time to get everything done for Memorial Day, and all things considered they've done a damn fine job. The park recognizes they can't stop now, and vow to move forward, improving each and every day. The staff and Mr. Hart are committed to making Kentucky Kingdom a great success and economic engine for Louisville. With the obvious support of people of Louisville and surrounding cities, I don't think they will any trouble at all in succeeding.

 

If you have any questions please post them here, if I don't know the answer, I will find out for you.

 

 

Many thanks and appreciations to Kentucky Kingdom for having me out and taking time out of their extremely busy day to show me around!

 

Thanks for reading and be sure to put Kentucky Kingdom on your places to visit this summer list!

Edited by chadster
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Amazing TR, Chad!!! Very nice photos and reading content. Great to hear that the park is off to a great start and they are really committed to providing a great experience to their guests.

 

One question I have is about Mile High Falls. You mentioned Six Flags didn't think it could be saved? Is it just like a Shoot the Chutes ride or a log flume? I've never been to the park so not sure what kind of ride it is. What was wrong with it?

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^In all reality, there really wasn't anything wrong with it other than it needed maintenance. Six Flags at the time shut the back portion of the park down around 2008 which included Mile High Falls and Twisted Twins in an effort to reduce it's maintenance and operating budgets. Keep in mind this was at a point where Shapiro was trying to make the company profitable again, and he did, it was just too little too late and the bankruptcy hammer fell.

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Thank you for sharing such a great look at this park! Based on the crowds it looks like this park really stands a great chance of being consistently successful for a long time to come! I can't wait to see what the next few seasons bring to the park!

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Thanks for this Chad! What a thourough and interesting report. I think the park looks GREAT and am so happy that they have managed to do what they have done.

 

I really look forward to seeing where they take the park moving forward!

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Everything in the park looks brand new with all the fresh paint. Hope they can mantain it that way in the future. And always cannot get over the small doors at the Break Dance - rode one with those in Spain and boy does it slow down operations - a showmen owning a Break Dancer like this at our carnivals would be broke in days...

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I remember on a trip to Silver Dollar City in 2011 we stopped for an overnight stay in Louisville. I could see the park from my window and I knew it would be back up someday. I can't wait to get back out there and support Mr. Hart's team!

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And they have beer and cocktails

 

Okay, you had me with this statement!

 

Seriously though, the park looks great and I am glad to see that they were able to rehab. It looked so desolate and run down when I was down there for a convention two years ago.

 

On another note, I found the concept of the one lazy river with no inner tubes to be intriguing. Is there a current that pulls you around the river and you just float/swim?

 

Thanks for sharing, Chad...great report!

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And they have beer and cocktails

 

Okay, you had me with this statement!

 

Seriously though, the park looks great and I am glad to see that they were able to rehab. It looked so desolate and run down when I was down there for a convention two years ago.

 

On another note, I found the concept of the one lazy river with no inner tubes to be intriguing. Is there a current that pulls you around the river and you just float/swim?

 

Thanks for sharing, Chad...great report!

 

The new river is an adventure river, its much much faster than the lazy river. They don't give out inter tubes but they do have foam boogie boards or foam noodles you can use or you can just float and the current will push you without anything. If you step out into the middle from the walk-in entrance it will push you off your feet if you are not careful.

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I'm pretty impressed with what they accomplished with Kentucky Kingdom given the tight schedule and all the obstacles. Really looking forward to Lightning Run.

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Very Nice. I did not think they would be able to pull it off but they did. I am very happy for them. Once the season is over I am pretty sure they will do a few finishing touches, such as a little more TLC to the front entrance.

 

I do feel that KK would be a great candidate to get Led Zep from Hard Rock...

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Very Nice. I did not think they would be able to pull it off but they did. I am very happy for them. Once the season is over I am pretty sure they will do a few finishing touches, such as a little more TLC to the front entrance.

 

I do feel that KK would be a great candidate to get Led Zep from Hard Rock...

 

If the ride hasn't been sold for scrap by 2017, then that's a possibility. However, I'd much rather see Mr. Hart invest some money in an RMC version of the Twisted Twins and a rideable version of T2.

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First off,Thanks for the wickly awesome trip report! I'm a long time follower but first time register'er (Seriously, how hard is it to pick JUST ONE picture and shrink it down to itty, bitty, barely can see it size?!?!?).

I'm a Niagara Falls born boy, so my family, ironically despite living in a major tourist destination, took vacations anywhere other than home. That turned out wonderfully because I grew up playing in the classics: Kennywood, Dutch Wonderland, Canada's Wonderland, CONEY ISLAND, Kings Island, Cedar Point, etc. I remember the very first time it was decided that instead of going to see midways, scary haunted houses, tunnels of love and carousels we were going caving in Mammoth Cave Kentucky. I.........WAS........PISSED! What the hell was this crap? "You made me sit in the back of this cramp, uncomfortable, hot- as* car so we can go down into a wet, scary hole?" Well, after my bitc*in on the way there, the Cave turned into something pretty cool (and somewhere I've returned to visit as an adult) and my change of attitude resulted in an unexpected visit to Louisville's Kentucky Kingdom. This was the mid 1990's and as I can remember is how much FUN I had! What a cool place! Hell, I think I wore a KK (just two K's, for the record) shirt till I ripped it in High School!

Later on, as an adult, I went back to visit the year it closed, hoping that I could relive some of my youthful memories, which with time had been elevated to nearly mythic levels, but ended up heart-broken. The place had lost it's charm, was dirty, was practically empty (minus little packs of nasty teens) and had become a pretty crummy Sovereignty. Quite frankly, from what I've seen in these pictures, closing for nearly-half-a-decade was probably the best thing that could have happened to Kentucky Kingdom. Ed Hart and his team really worked their backsides off and it shows! I can't wait to visit again!

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Growing up in Kentucky I've been to Kentucky Kingdom more times that I can count but don't think I ever saw that place this crowded ever! Really glad to see the park having this early success and I really hope that they can sustain it.

 

Was Deluge open? If not was there any mention of reopening that thing in the coming years?

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