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Group not asking for state funds for park

Associated Press Modified: October 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm •  Published: October 22, 2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A group of Louisville-based investors who want to reopen Kentucky Kingdom said Monday they are not asking for any startup funding from the state to get the amusement park rides running again.

The team, led by developer Ed Hart, said it plans to restore all but one of the park's existing rides and add four new rides, including a $15 million roller coaster, the first to be introduced at the park in more than a decade.

The group also said it would double the size of the "Hurricane Bay" water park on the 60-acre grounds at the state fairgrounds.

Hart said his group's proposal also delved into details of its business, marketing and financing plans "so the state would have the most thorough explanation possible of our vision for Kentucky Kingdom."

"Our intent is to return Kentucky Kingdom to its previous position as the state's number one paid tourist attraction," he said.

The inactivity on a prime piece of property has worn on the patience of state leaders, including Gov. Steve Beshear.

Pamela Trautner, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet, said Monday the agency would not comment on the number or names of bidders, citing state procurement rules.

"The commonwealth is evaluating the documents received and will be taking the appropriate subsequent steps very soon," she said.

Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, said city officials are keeping close tabs on the park in hopes it can be reopened as soon as possible.

Kentucky Kingdom, a regional summer fixture for years and a big employer of seasonal teenage workers, last operated in 2009. Six Flags Inc. announced the park's closure in February 2010 while reorganizing in bankruptcy court.

Hart, who operated the amusement park for nearly a decade in the 1990s, said Monday his group would make a $120 million investment — including $50 million in startup funding and $70 million over the term of the lease with the state.

"Our proposal provides both substantial startup capital and a program of continued annual reinvestment, which will ensure the park's success," said Ed Glasscock, one of Hart's partners in the proposed venture.

The group would restore the park's more than 100 buildings, Hart said.

Hart's goal is to reopen the park in the spring of 2014.

"But every day that goes by decreases the ability to meet that goal," said his spokeswoman, Susan McNeese Lynch.

"Ed and his partners hope that the state has the same sense of urgency they do about this project moving forward and generating additional economic benefits for the commonwealth."

Hart projected the reopening would yield $521 million in net new economic benefits over the term of the proposed lease.

Hart made a prior attempt to reopen the park but that proposal was shelved.

The state thought it had finally landed a new park operator earlier this year, but the deal with the family that owns and operates Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., fell apart in June.

That spurred the state to again seek offers to operate the park, which prompted the new offer from Hart and his partners.

Hart said his group would essentially accept the same lease terms the state approved for the Holiday World investors.

Hart said his group is eager to meet with state officials to discuss its proposal and "iron out the details." Along with Glasscock, Hart's partners in the proposed venture are Bruce Lunsford and the Al J. Schneider Co.


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