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.