Kentucky Kingdom unveiled plans for its fifth roller coaster on Monday, a behemoth that will stand 100 feet tall at its highest point and incorporate parts of a former coaster, Twisted Twins, that has sat dormant at the Louisville amusement park for years.
The $15 million Storm Chaser, with a track length of 2,744 feet and a maximum velocity of 52 mph, will make its debut in spring 2016, according to a news release. It will be the fifth roller coaster at the park and the second new roller coaster at Kentucky Kingdom since it reopened last year after a five-year absence. The other new coaster, Lightning Run, is a steel "hyper coaster" introduced in 2014. Storm Chaser also joins wooden coaster Thunder Run; T3, a revamped suspended looping coaster; and the Roller Skater, a family coaster that appeals to numerous ages.
After months of speculation, Kentucky Kingdom has finally posted their 2014 plans. In addition, they have also given us a hint as to what to expect for the following seasons as well. Here is the 2014 lineup according to KentuckyKingdom.com
Lightning Run - Lightning will strike at the Kingdom in 2014! This new ten-story steel coaster starts off with a pulse-pounding, 100-foot, 80-degree drop! That’s almost straight to the ground!
(Editors Note: It appears to be a Chance Morgan Hyper GT-X model)
Fear Fall - Brave the unexpected as you tower 129 feet over the Kingdom. What a great view…if you can keep your eyes open. At the top, you’ll pause for a breath-catching moment before dropping back to earth at more than 45 miles per hour.
(Editor's Note: From the picture it seems to be a Larson model)
Professor John's Flying Machines - This entertaining ride, sure to become a family favorite, will amaze both riders and spectators. The Professor’s latest invention takes passengers airborne and allows them to test their flying skills.
(Editor's Note: Flying Eagles)
5D CINEMA - MOVIES YOU RIDE - It’s like being cast in a movie without ever having to leave your seat! You’re the star of this exhilarating 5D ride, a state-of-the-art experience you’ll want to enjoy over and over again. (Keep your eyes on our website for news of the movie to be shown at the 5D Cinema in 2014.)
Bumper Cars - Crash! Bump! Look out! Just try to avoid getting hit as you maneuver your way around our new bumper car pavilion. Ready! Set! Go!
Hurricane Bay - Doubles in size in 2014 with the addition of 9 new attractions including Family Wave Lagoon, Adventure River, Plummet Summit (family raft slide), Kids Cove, Speed Slide Complex consisting of Deep Water Dive (121 ft slide being heralded as America's tallest) & Wave Runner (66 ft triple bump slide), Wikiwiki Wai Slide Complex consisting of Wailele Run (covered tube slide), Waikiki Wipeout (bowl slide), and Kilauea (slide with tornado elements).
In addition, the park map shows that Twisted Twins and T2 will open in 2015 and 2016.
Kentucky Kingdom Strikes Back
It finally appears that after all its years of dormancy and trouble, Kentucky Kingdom is officially a survivor. Back in April the Kentucky State Fair Board gave Ed Hart and his developers two months, until June 27th, to secure the finances needed to open the park. As of June 25th, a spokeswoman for the board said Kentucky Kingdom LLP had officially been able to finalize that financing according to WHAS 11 News.
Over the past three years, Kentucky Kingdom has been standing but not operating (SBNO), locked in an epic battle between the Kentucky State Fair Board and potential developers and operators for the park. Ed Hart has on several occasions since 2010 come along with multiple plans to revive the park, but all seemed to fall flat or get thwarted. Even the Koch family, owners of the nearby, highly successful Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. But there plans to revive the park as Bluegrass Boardwalk were also derailed due to “too much red tape.” Ultimately, the park’s state of disrepair in conjunction with difficult lease negotiations seemed to spell the final doom for the park.
During this past year though, Hart has made a strong push to revive the park in what was seen as Kentucky Kingdom’s final shot at survival. With time ticking away, it didn’t seem like it would happen, but it has finally become official. A lot of rides have deteriorated over the past three years, and several others, including the star B&M Chang roller coaster, are gone, but plans are in place to begin working on the park immediately to have much of the park up and running for a May 2014 reopening.
According to the Huffington Post, plans are to have a new steel roller coaster and a big expansion to the Hurricane Bay water park as part of the 2014 reopening. Hart and his operators are hoping for somewhere in the range of 700,000 to 1 million guests the first year. The team will be investing $36 million into next year, $12 million of which will be spent doubling Hurricane Bay, $7 million on the new coaster, and the rest on renovating the buildings and rides at the park. Hurricane Bay’s expansion will include 3 new slide complexes, a 12,000 square foot wave lagoon, and an adventure river that moves six times faster than the current lazy river. No word has been given on what the new coaster will be, but the park plans to have such major attractions as the Thunder Run wooden coaster, Mile High Falls, the 150-foot Giant Wheel, Thrill Park Theater, and rapid river raft ride open next year.
After that, the investors have another $7.5 million planned for the following 2 years. For 2015, Kentucky Kingdom will see a makeover to its Vekoma SLC coaster, T2, and 2016 will apparently see an upgrade to the parks intertwined Twisted Twins wooden coasters. According to the press release, they plan to continue introducing new attractions each season, with an obligation in the lease to “invest as much as $2.5 million each year for as many as 70 years,” according to Hart.
With a target reopening in just over 10 months, there is a lot of work and a long journey ahead. Hart stated that frequent progress updates will continue to be posted on the parks website.
Kentucky Kingdom president Ed Hart has announced that he “fully expects” the standing-but-not-operating park to finally reopen on May 24, 2014, along with the addition of two new major rides and a water park two times its previous size. Hart stated “We intend to have a complete makeover of Kentucky Kingdom.”
“We are very encouraged by what we’ve seen, but obviously, there is a great deal of work to do” to get the park ready for business, said Hart to Courier-Journal. Hart’s investment group was recently granted a lease by the Kentucky State Fair Board in an attempted assist to reopen the park in 2014.
Hart, who had previously run the park for a decade up until 1997, took notice of the review of the status of the park. Currently on the property are 100 buildings, 40 rides and 60 acres of land. Hart said the preliminary review included some “surprises and setbacks” according to Courier-Journal. He said that these “small things” for the most part, and nothing that will keep him from staying true to the May, 2014 opening day.
Courier-Journal says that under the lease, Hart and his partners have agreed to invest $45 million in park improvements by 2017, which includes $20 million in partner equity and $25 million in loans. $1 million in park upgrades will also be a number in this equation.
He also stated that the Thunder Run wooden coaster may need more than $1 million worth of repairs and modifications. Nothing has been said about Twisted Twins, the parks racing coaster, which has been SBNO for two years longer than Kentucky Kingdom.
Reopening Kentucky Kingdom also means more jobs to help stimulate the economy. Hart told Courier-Journal that he plans to hire about 50 full-time park staff in the near future, with up to 1,000 seasonal employees for when the park’s operating.
Final Push for Kentucky Kingdom
In a battle that has been raging on now for over 3 years, which has swung Kentucky Kingdom from the edge of salvation to the brink of total extinction and annihilation, it finally seems as though a deal may be legitimately coming to reopen the park. According to WFPL, Governor Steve Beshear has approved of a plan to reopen the park, with only the final details left to work out. That group, led by Kentucky Kingdom journeyman Ed Hart, will need to negotiate with the state on its proposal.
After several failed attempts for Ed Hart and his supporters, the group of investors, known as Kentucky Kingdom LLLP, ended up being the only entry to submit a proposal to reopen the park a few months ago when Gov. Beshear opened up for proposals. According to WLKY, the Kentucky State Fair Board finally approved a 50-year lease agreement with Ed Hart, whose attempts until now with the Fair Board had failed.
The investors have already agreed to invest $45 million into the park, but must also secure an additional $25 million in private loans before opening the park. He will also need another $70 million over 30 years for the long-term lease. Beshear told WLKY, "This agreement is great news for the families who will visit Kentucky Kingdom and will certainly be a shot in the arm for local and regional tourism." A big point of the proposal involving the lease was to protect taxpayers from "shouldering private debt."
WLKY reported that Kentucky Kingdom LLLP now has 90 days to complete its financial obligation, at which point the opening of the park can move forward. To help out, Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher will provide three financial incentives to assist in redevelopment, worth as much as $300,000 a year. According to the Courier Journal, the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau voted to provide Hart and his group $100,000 per year for 5 years to help offset the park's operating costs. As well, the Metro government will also give back up to 1.25% of "occupational taxes" (generated by park employment) collected from the park for 10 years, an estimated $100,000 per year.
Hart has his work cut out for him, as the park has sat dormant and been run down for 3 years now without maintenance. The park has already lost Chang to relocation, and according to Hart, Greezed Lightnin' is "beyond repair." On the upside, he does plan to reopen one of the park's other major coasters, Twisted Twins, for the park's second year. Few other details have been revealed, other than the fact that Hart would like to double the size of the water park, add a $15 million coaster, and install 3 major thrill rides, according to the Courier Journal.
Plans seem to be moving forward as all sides work to finalize the deal, with plans to get the park back on track for an opening in 2014.
After a few months of relative silence, it seems things surrounding the SBNO Kentucky Kingdom amusement park in Louisville, Kentucky have picked back up once again. According to a report from the Courier Journal last week, Ed Hart and other business leaders were proposing a $40 million proposal to reopen the park by 2014.
This is Hart’s second time trying to get the park back open, after being refuted by the Kentucky State Fair Board back in October of last year. At that time, he had committed $1 million in personal funding, $5.6 million in equity, and $23 million in private funds from the Al J. Schneider Company of hotels, and was seeking $20 million from the Kentucky General Assembly. After talks had concluded, the Fair Board essentially wrote Hart off stating “Hart is out of the picture as a potential Kentucky Kingdom operator.”
The latest proposal from Hart comes right on the heels of Governor Steve Beshear asked the Fair Board to request proposals for operators of the park. Hart continues to push forward with strongly supported proposals, but also continues to be turned down by the Fair Board with little or no explanation. Now he’s offering up nearly $10 million in upfront equity, and an additional $30 million from lenders. As reported by the Courier Journal, Hart’s proposal expects the same $400,000 first-year rent offered to Bluegrass Boardwalk, increasing to $750,000 down the line, and discussions on how to split parking revenue.
Wave3 reported that the $30 million from lenders would be loan money, which Beshear is concerned could come from taxpayers which “raises a question or two in [his] mind.” Hart argues though, that the $30 million would be used on rides and equipment, which could all be used as collateral on the loan, lowering the risk for taxpayers and other potential loan parties. Hart’s biggest concern for the park is the fact that every year the park sits, the more it deteriorates, the more expensive it becomes to fix back up, and the more bleak it’s future becomes.
The last ray of hope for Kentucky Kingdom came from the Koch family, owners of the thriving Holiday World just hours north, who planned to reopen the park as Bluegrass Boardwalk. With $16.5 million ready to go, a plan set for the future of the park, and even a new logo created, the Koch’s finally walked after months of “red tape” frustrated their efforts.
It seems the Fair Board will be putting in a request for proposals within 30 days, at which point it will likely have 30-45 days set aside for submissions. The board would then review all proposals and hopefully find a good one which would allow them to negotiate a lease for the park. Ron Carmicle, Chairman of the fair board said that they had received interest from several potential operators after the Koch family deal fell through, and hope to find a deal that works for all parties involved to get the park back in operation.
After being in talks with Kentucky State Fair Board since February, Bluegrass Boardwalk has stepped down from its attempt to reopen the former Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom site.
This disappointing news comes just days after it had been announced that the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority had approved tax incentives for which Bluegrass Boardwalk, Inc had applied.
The park had spent most of the previous months attempting to secure these incentives, which instead resulted in numerous delays. These incentives would have resulted in $3.9 million back to the company over the following ten years.
“We entered into this discussion last October with full expectation of leasing the park,” Natalie Koch, Bluegrass Boardwalk CEO, said in the official Bluegrass Boardwalk press release. “However, we have come to the realization that leasing a park rather than owning it would take us too far from the business model my family has followed for more than 60 years.”
According to their press release, Bluegrass Boardwalk was more than willing to back the project financially. Instead, the issue became the lack of independence the park would have due to the governmental involvement in the project and the uncertainty of doing business with changing leadership.
“Part of the decision too is the fact that there is uncertainty when you're working with the government and the longer that we continued with the progress of the project we realized that the same people might not be here next year, specifically Harold Workman who has been wonderful,” Koch told WDRB, a Louisville news site. “But he is going to be leaving and we don't know who his replacement will be and that kind of uncertainty is hard for us because we plan 5 to 10 years in advance.”
Ed Hart weighed in on the sad news, again ascertaining that the Koch family was attempting to eliminate competition for Holiday World. The Koch family instead said that they hope somebody else can take over the park.
“It's not a factor of competition. It's just a factor of it just doesn't work for us. It's going to work for somebody, but not for us.”
This news has been hard on residents of Louisville and was difficult for the Koch family, as well. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer intends to find another operator as soon as possible.
"We are disappointed with today's news and will engage quickly with state officials to try and find a new partner for the park," Fischer said in a press release, according to msnbc Louisville.
No planning can completely account for unforeseen circumstances, and Bluegrass Boardwalk is no exception. COASTER-net recently published an article about the possibility of the park not opening in 2013 as intended, and shortly after, Bluegrass Boardwalk released a statement confirming it.
Between impediments in their search for tax incentives and the obvious lack of maintenance at the abandoned former Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, delays were inevitable. Natalie Koch, CEO of Bluegrass Boardwalk, Inc has had to amend her previous lease for the amusement park property, according to a press release from Bluegrass Boardwalk, Inc.
“When the park was closed in 2009, needed winter maintenance was not performed on the rides. For example, pumps for the water rides were not removed for off-season winterization and inspection,” Koch said in the press release. “Plumbing and structural infrastructure are in need of extensive repair. Buildings are damaged from leaky roofs. Rides are missing parts. The list goes on and on. We believe 75 percent of the rides will require significant overhaul following in-depth inspection by certified ride experts.”
This detailed analysis by ride inspectors isn’t expected to come until after Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet has finished their investigation to give final approval to the Koch’s application for tax incentives.
Meanwhile, Bluegrass Boardwalk is receiving its fair share of criticisms, including from Ed Hart, a previous operator of Kentucky Kingdom, and the last person to attempt to reopen the park.
“Maybe one of the explanations is the fact that a vibrant, thriving Kentucky Kingdom only draws attendance away from Holiday World,” Hart told wdrb.com. “As business people who run a really good park in Indiana, I can understand how they want to protect that facility.”
Hart spent most of 2011 in talks with the Kentucky Fair Board. “Had they accepted our plan, Kentucky Kingdom would be open as we speak right now,” Hart said.
But Koch disagrees. “"We don't criticize other people; that's just not the way we do business. We're a family.”
“We will begin work as soon as we have a signed lease,” Koch said on the Bluegrass Boardwalk website. “Until then, the clock is ticking and the park and its rides continue to deteriorate.”
Bluegrass Boardwalk is expected to release their 2014 ride list in the fall.
Bluegrass Boardwalk Faces Delays
Bluegrass Boardwalk’s chances of opening in 2013 are decreasing as more delays are thrown in front of the Koch family. Should the park open in 2014, it could even open without any roller coasters.
The Koch family, who run Bluegrass Boardwalk, Inc as well as Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, were hoping to get their lease with the Kentucky State Fair Board signed last month.
As COASTER-net reported, the company has been attempting to secure tax incentives to back their financial investments in the park. They received preliminary approval earlier this month, but the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet is still working on an investigation to ensure that the Koch’s undertaking meets all the requirements for the incentives.
According to WFPL news, Gil Lawson of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said that the investigation should conclude by next month. Paula Werne, Koch family spokesperson, told WFPL that it isn’t until the study is completed that Bluegrass Boardwalk, Inc will be able to determine the park’s opening date.
These legal impediments are also delaying the physical side of reopening the park. Park clean up, ride analyses on each ride from experts, and therefore refurbishments have been delayed until the lease has been signed, according to WHAS11.com. Without these assessments, the park will have to continue to push back the opening.
The park may also open without roller coasters, according to Courier Journal. The Louisville news site reported that their copy of Bluegrass Boardwalk’s incentive application stated that the park would initially open with “all the existing water park attractions and some of the amusement park rides.”
According to the same report, this was based off of information gained from preliminary examinations of the rides.
“We’d kicked the tires, but we didn’t crank up the engine,” Werne said in a press release on theBluegrass Boardwalk blog. “That will happen after we have the signed lease and can really dig in – with the experts. They’ll help us formulate the very best plan for reopening what we can and saying good-bye to what simply can’t be rehabilitated.”
Bluegrass Boardwalk is becoming less a dream and more a reality by the week. Dan Koch recently announced an exact date that his family is aiming to open the park - May 11th, 2013.
"We've got financing approved,” Koch told wdrb.com. “We have to have the mortgage placed on the property, and the governor signs the lease, and we're good to go.”
As COASTER-net reported just weeks ago, Bluegrass Boardwalk, Inc recently got approval for tax incentives. It intends to invest upwards of $15 million into the former Six Flags park.
Much of the investment is going into sprucing up pre-existing rides and buildings on the property, but also into new additions.
“We're going to put in new rides. We're going to paint buildings. We're going to clean up toilets,” Koch said. “There's a happy thing back there, too. There's a lot of pretty buildings already and some of those rides aren't in bad shape and the landscaping actually is beautiful.”
Not every ride will be staying from Kentucky Kingdom to Bluegrass Boardwalk. Some are in such disrepair that it wouldn't make sense to put more money into repairing it than replacing it.
“I can't speculate what we'll have open because we haven't broken down all the rides and slides to take a look at it. And candidly, some are just gonna be beyond the repair standards of Holiday World," Koch told WKU Public Radio.