Two days ago, news broke that the owners of Holiday World were evaluating the possibility of re-opening Kentucky Kingdom.
A Kentucky Newspaper was all over it:
Members of the ownership group of Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Ind., have formed a new company to attempt to negotiate a lease agreement to operate the closed Kentucky Kingdom amusement park at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.
Members of the Koch family said Tuesday that they “continue to explore” efforts to reopen Kentucky Kingdom in 2013. They said four family members have formed Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc. “to negotiate a lease agreement with the Kentucky State Fair Board, secure financing and apply for economic development incentives from the commonwealth of Kentucky.”
The incentives would probably be in the form of forgiveness of a share of the sales taxes the park would otherwise pay. The Kochs said “no public monies will be requested from the Kentucky legislature.”
Interesting, isn’t it? The one operations group in the country that has a serious interest in seeing that Kentucky Kingdom doesn’t reopen is now in the running to snatch it up. And no one is questioning that?
Never mind that it’s likely not feasible to reopen by 2013. At the time, when Ed Hart was working on it and had lined up $29 million in private capital, there was talk that it wouldn’t open until the 2014 season.
Going off memory here but Kentucky Kingdom’s attendance was, what, 500,000+? And to be profitable it would need to bring in 300,000 additional guests? Where would those guests come from? Yep – Holiday World. Because there’s a fairly fixed population here in the region.
So while everyone is applauding the Koch Family for vowing not to accept taxpayer dollars – just tax credits – to reopen the joint, keep in mind that they have zero reason to be in a hurry. The studies they’ll have to produce (because they’re starting over from scratch) will take six months. It’ll take another six months to create an operations plan and to get it approved. What, six or eight months to get the park back into tip top shape. And then what? You’re well into 2014. If not 2015. They won’t be fighting that sort of delay. Harold Workman and Jerry Abramson know what this game is and they’re playing along to keep up appearances.
The Koch Family is great. No one can dispute that. The business they run is top-notch. But this could be the best $6 or $7 million they’ve ever lost. They keep the park closed longer or keep it from growing in the best case scenario.
While the State Fair Board was busy screwing Ed Hart over, the state was losing tax revenue from Kentucky Kingdom. Now taxpayers owe Hart millions of dollars. And the state is still losing money on Kentucky Kingdom. This is why Louisville and Kentucky can’t have nice things.