State making third attempt to find Kentucky Kingdom Operator

Published: Aug. 16, 2012 at 7:43 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 30, 2012 at 9:26 PM EDT
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LOUISVLLE, KY (WAVE) - Plans to reopen the defunct Kentucky Kingdom are moving forward again. The State Fair Board, on the suggestion of Governor Steve Beshear, is looking for proposals to find the right person to get those coasters rolling again.

The decision comes on the same day they denied a proposal from the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Commission. It's a group that includes businessman Ed Hart, who was an original operator of the park back in the 1980s and tried unsuccessfully to reopen it in 2010.

Board Chairman Ron Carmicle said having Ed Hart's group take over the park is not out of question, but right the board and the Governor have decided to start the process of reaching out to all parties interested in operating the part. "Let's have everybody step up that is interested in doing some kind of amusement center out here and we'll evaluate those and see if anything works," said Beshear.

The board says that can also include a proposal from Ed Hart and the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Commission, even though they are not accepting their $40 million plan to reopen the park by 2014. "To suggest for a moment that there's parties out there that aren't aware Kentucky Kingdom has been closed for three years and they're going to jump forward now is a little disingenuous," said Hart when he learned of the board's decision.

While Board Chairman Carmicle said he's encouraged to know Hart's group is interested, Beshear says that $40 million isn't what it appears. He said they're only putting up $10 million and the state would have to give a $30 million loan. "If they don't want to guarantee it, but they want the tax payers to it kind of raises a question or two in my mind."

Hart said he has questions too, but about the state's intentions. "That $30 million is buying equipment and rides they can use as collateral for the loan." Hart said he's unsure if he'll resubmit his proposal. He said he wants to talk it over with his partners, including Bruce Lunsford, Mary Mosley and Ed Glasscock first.

Beshear and the board said they're optimistic they'll find the right operator for this round, but if not, while the board won't say what could happen, Beshear laid it out pretty clearly. "We need to plan for our future. I think it's time to as I say fish or cut bait."

Fair Board President Harold Workman said he's confident this time they'll find someone by the end of the year because they have the state working with them at the beginning of the process, rather than the end. Both Hart and the Koch family, owners of Holiday World, said they backed out of their past deals because of issues with the state's incentives.

Hart still has a pending lawsuit over that first attempt to reopen Kentucky Kingdom and said he doesn't know if his group will submit again.

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