Fair board to consider new amusement park operator
BY SHELDON S. SHAFER • SSHAFER@COURIER-JOURNAL.COM
• MAY 25, 2010
The Kentucky State Fair Board Thursday will consider selection of a new operator for the closed Kentucky Kingdom amusement park at the Kentucky Exposition Center.
Fair Board president Harold Workman said he will recommend a new operator to the fair board at its monthly meeting. But he ruled out any chance of getting the park reopened this year.
The Six Flags chain, which is in bankruptcy proceedings, shut down the park in early February, after asking the fair board that it be allowed to operate the park rent-free through the term of its lease than ran until 2019.
Workman said Tuesday that six potential park operators inquired about reopening Kentucky Kingdom. He said representatives of three of the companies visited the park and that two of the three recently submitted proposals for reopening the park. He said he is recommending one of them to the fair board.
He declined to name the recommended operator, but he said he wouldn't recommend a company unless it was well experienced in the amusement-park business.
Once the board approves the potential operator, Workman said he will try to negotiate a lease with the company. That negotiation process will probably take at least 60 days, he said.
The bankruptcy court must still make a decision on what will happen to rides on 15 acres of the park still owned by Six Flags. The fair board claims ownership of the rides on 45 acres it had been leasing to Six Flags.
Workman said Tuesday that it would be difficult, but perhaps not impossible, to reopen only the 45-acre portion of the park that the fair board owns. He said he believes, however, that Six Flags would be a willing sell its 15 acres, if a deal could be struck with either the fair board or a new operator. A few rides span both the Six Flags and fair board property.
Workman said any company that wants to take over the park probably will invest a substantial sum in upgrading the offerings.
The lease called for Six Flags to pay $1.185 million in rent this year to the fair board. In addition, the fair board was in line to receive about $450,000 from parking fees paid by amusement park visitors. Six Flags got none of the parking revenue.
Louisville city officials and officials of the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau say they desperately want the park reopened. In addition to being a boost for tourism, the park provided about 1,000 summer jobs.
Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at (502) 582-7089.