(Editor’s note: This post was updated at 11:45 a.m. on August 16: Gov. Steve Beshear has told media outlets state officials need to make a final decision as to whether the Kentucky Kingdom property adjacent to the Kentucky State Fair and Exposition Center is viable as a theme park. Real estate sources tell Insider Louisville several companies have looked at the 60-acre site for a possible distribution center/business park.)
That’s Ed Hart’s two-word description for how Kentucky officials have received his updated plan to revive the Kentucky Kingdom theme park.
In an interview Thursday morning, Hart said he hasn’t heard directly from Gov. Steve Beshear or from Kentucky State Fair Board officials, who control the Kentucky Kingdom property.
Fair Board officials told the Courier-Journal they expect Hart and his partners will submit their $40 million plan as a response to a request for proposal issued by the state seeking uses for the Kentucky Kingdom property, vacant since former owner Six Flags went bankrupt in 2010.
Hart is joined by Mary Moseley, CEO of the Louisville-based hotel and real estate investment group Al J. Schneider Co., former Vencor CEO Bruce Lunsford and retired Frost Brown Todd managing partner Ed Glasscock.
Hart said he suspects the RFP is a move to delay acting on his new proposal, which does not require the state to issue construction bonds.
“We’re bringing $40 million in cash to this project, but they keep moving the goal posts,” Hart said.
Any delays jeopardize the ability of his group to reopen the park next year, which is what they’re proposing, he said.
“They have a $40 million decaying asset, and they’re worried about whether we default on a loan? Unbelievable,” he said.
“Kentucky Kingdom was successful for 20 years. Why wouldn’t it be successful now?”
Here’s the group latest news release in full:
On the heels of Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company’s submission of a $40 million plan to the Kentucky State Fair Board that would reopen by 2014 the Kentucky Kingdom theme park, which was formerly the state’s number one paid tourist attraction, the partners in the company, local businesspeople Ed Glasscock, Bruce Lunsford, Ed Hart, and Mary Moseley, have commented on the news that the Fair Board will not act on the proposal at its meeting today, but will instead issue a Request for Proposals from other parties that might be interested.
The plan submitted by Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company (KKRC) provides $10 million in cash equity from Messrs. Glasscock, Lunsford, and Hart and Ms. Moseley, and $30 million in bank financing. The plan requires no state funding. The state is asked only to guarantee the $30-million bank loan in consideration for the fact that all $40 million of funding, including the $10 million in equity from Glasscock, Lunsford, Hart, and Moseley, will become the property of the state. KKRC will operate the facility, but the state will own all of the assets.
Ed Hart led efforts that successfully turned around two previously closed theme parks, including the original Kentucky Kingdom. In addition, then Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas asked Ed Hart in 2000 to reopen a closed and run-down park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Hart and his team redeveloped that park, which went on to realize great success as Magic Springs & Crystal Falls.
In light of the new delay, Mary Moseley commented, “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.”
Ed Glasscock added, “We want to restore Kentucky Kingdom to the regional theme park it once was. We should not settle for anything less. Louisville can do better than that.”
Said Bruce Lunsford, “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? Ed Hart and his team operated Kentucky Kingdom successfully for many years and can do so again. Frankly, I don’t understand the Fair Board’s reluctance to go forward. Now is the time for leadership.”
Hart concluded: “We do not have the luxury of time. 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. And don’t forget that it costs the state $500,000 each year in utilities, security, and maintenance expense for Kentucky Kingdom, even as the park sits idle. Of course, that figure doesn’t include the rent and parking revenues the state loses with the park closed. By the Fair Board’s own account, that lost revenue totals $2 million per year.”
(Editor’s note: We forgot to note in the original post that Ed Hart created the hugely successful version of Kentucky Kingdom back in the day. Which we figure anyone who cares, knows. Under Hart in the early-to-mid 2000s, the amusement park was Louisville’s largest tourist draw for more than a decade.
Here’s our original post from yesterday:
Here we go again.
Ed Hart tells Insider Louisville he delivered a $40 million plan to revive Kentucky Kingdom this morning to Kentucky State Fair Board officials.
Hart again is collaborating with Al J. Schneider Co. CEO Mary Moseley on a plan. Moseley agreed to guarantee $20 million on a $50 million plan last February, a plan that went nowhere after Fair Board officials abruptly ended 18 months of negotiations.
That plan involved the state issuing construction bonds.
For this run, Hart and Moseley have added former Vencor CEO Bruce Lunsford, Hart’s partner in Hart-Lunsford Pictures, a movie production/financing company, as well as retired Frost Brown Todd managing partner Ed Glasscock.
Hart & Co. are asking for no state financing this time, only tax incentives.
That four-financier lineup apparently won’t stop the Fair Board, which owns the dormant 60-acre site, from issuing a request for proposal Thursday, Hart said.
“This is an evolving story,” he added in a brief interview.
Hart promised more details in a follow-up interview.
The new proposal follows the sudden withdrawal June 15 of the Koch Family, which owns Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind.
The Kochs had proposed investing $15 million to convert Kentucky Kingdom, vacant since 2010, into “Bluegrass Boardwalk.” But the family never submitted any detailed plans. Just after approval of state tax incentives, they dropped the project, stating rides were more deteriorated than they’d been told, and that their business plan didn’t allow for leasing the property, which is owned by the state of Kentucky.
The Koch plan had the full support of top Fair Board officials Ron Carmicle and Harold Workman.
Hart told Insider Louisville the Koch proposal was merely a strategic move to keep Kentucky Kingdom in limbo in order to maximize attendance at Holiday World, which is 80 miles west of Louisville.
Sources also told Insider Louisville that the Kochs are in negotiations with Indianapolis officials, vying for a proposed theme park near the Lucas Oil Stadium.
Come to think of it, who needs a roller coaster … we’ve got whiplash just from trying to follow all the twists and turns, ups and downs in the Kentucky Kingdom saga.