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Courier-Journal editorial:

...The Beshear administration has been oddly quiet on this project. How does it justify tax incentives for a religious theme park in Northern Kentucky but no interest in an amusement park that is already built in Louisville?

Ed Hart, who created Kentucky Kingdom and made it is regional destination in the 1990s before selling it to the Six Flags organization, has worked out a creative plan that should make the city money, create 1,000 jobs and reverse the current decline. Mayor Greg Fischer, who says he is all about jobs, was out of town when this announcement was made. He's back now, and we encourage him to revisit this important project.

http://www.courier-j...ell|text|Home|s
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not "ascerting" but asking. Tax Incentives are a little different than funding aren't they? The Kentucky Kingdom project is requesting quite a bit of public funds to back the project; meanwhile the Ark Encounter is being backed mostly by private funds. I could be wrong, but that may be a key difference in the two. I would think that both would receive consideration for tax incentives, because both would be chipping funds back into the public tax fund through sales and employer taxes.

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not "ascerting" but asking. Tax Incentives are a little different than funding aren't they? The Kentucky Kingdom project is requesting quite a bit of public funds to back the project; meanwhile the Ark Encounter is being backed mostly by private funds. I could be wrong, but that may be a key difference in the two. I would think that both would receive consideration for tax incentives, because both would be chipping funds back into the public tax fund through sales and employer taxes.

I think you are 100% correct. If Mr. Hart was investing $50 Million private dollars for this venture, I'm sure he would be looking for tax incentives based upon his investment. I see no reason that he wouldn't be as likely to receive them as the Ark park or any other business investing private dollars to bring jobs, tourists, or revenue to Kentucky. Put simply - one is truly an incentive for private industry to invest in Kentucky, the other is a request for a handout from the city and state.

What I think many find interesting is the outward show of support the governor gave to the Ark park (showing up at the announcement) versus the lack of comment on Kentucky Kingdom.

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Yes. Someone knows.

The waterpark remains intact. Six Flags removed Chang as part of a planned waterpark expansion. Then, after bankruptcy, it rejected the lease as a bankrupt debtor in possession. The mousey, Road Runner Express, a Maurer Söhne, was removed to Six Flags New England as part of a settlement with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, approved by the bankruptcy court.

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HART REVISES PLANS, STILL HOPES FOR 2012 OPENING:

...Hart has now promised to increase his own investment in the park and is seeking a $17.5 million bond from the city. Mayor's spokesperson Chris Poynter says the money isn't the biggest concern for Metro Government, it's whether the state will contribute as well.

"The city government has no direct role in the fairgrounds or Kentucky Kingdom—it's run by the state. So when the state decided not to help put money in, it was disappointing because we thought we could have a three-legged stool financially, with the state contributing some, the city contributing some and, obviously, the private developer contributing some," he says. "It wasn't necessarily the number, it was the risk factor for the city. So we need to really look at what are the revenue streams for the city. Is this a better deal for the taxpayers? And that's what our chief financial officer and the mayor will be looking at in the next week."...

http://www.wfpl.org/...012-re-opening/

See also:

..."It will be a very hard sell. We're going to be short already on the budget so it's going to be a very hard sell if we're able to do this," says Marianne Butler, A Councilwoman representing the 15th District.

"I hope that we can get that passed. I really think it's necessary for our community to have Kentucky Kingdom, as so many people went to it and enjoyed it and were working there...the taxes that we derive from it and I think it's ridiculous it's been closed for two years," says Dan Johnson, who represents the 21st District....

http://www.fox41.com...-for-less-money

* Still dependent on government participation...in an era when all government spending is being looked at under a microscope by taxpayers, legislators and the press....

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Now is not the time to be trying to get government funding help. Budgets are grim, as they are struggling to meet their budget and grapple with shortfalls in projected income. Just today, Norwood, Ohio approved its budget, allowing the city workers to be paid their paychecks. And it has been announced that the stadium deal that Hamilton County had with the Bengals and Reds to fix the stadium fund deficit has fallen apart. The fund will be $33 million in the red because of sales tax revenue is falling short of the original projections.

It is very uncertain times right now, and trying to get a city or state government to spend even more money on things like funding an amusement/water park is a tough sell. Yes, if it is successful, it can help bring in tourists and employ workers who will filter money into city coffers through taxes. But Kentucky Kingdom, whether it be an amusement park, water park or both, is in a VERY tough market. With both Kings Island and Holiday World a short drive from the city, it would be hard for Kentucky Kingdom to carve out a niche market to successfully attract visitors. In turn, this makes any investment in the park shaky, because if you build it, they might now come. Especially with two years of the park being closed, what would draw these guests back to the park from Holiday World and Kings Island?

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Mr. Hart, in an interview:

..."If a public official supports reopening Kentucky Kingdom, I trust they believe it will be successful. From everything I've heard, every public officials that's on the record thinks Kentucky Kingdom should be reopened. However, when it comes to forging a public-private partnership, all of a sudden some public officials think it will not be successful. That is double talk. Either you believe in Kentucky Kingdom, or you don't. You can't have it both ways."...

Perhaps some of those officials think reopening Kentucky Kingdom is vitally important but should be done without using scarce government funds in an environment where the Commonwealth is furloughing state employees, deferring vital highway maintenance, desperately trying to juggle resources to fund Medicaid, etc.? In 2011, the proposed state backing was not even introduced in the General Assembly. And next year will be a presidential election year. Why would a proposal to use state funds to back a private investor in reopening an amusement park in the State's largest city get more backing from rural, Lexington and Northern Kentucky (adjacent to Kings Island), and Bowling Green (Beech Bend) legislators then?

I have asked all along what is in this for Mr. Hart. Among other things, some still undisclosed portion of the proceeds if the park is ever sold! The City would get 30 percent, the Commonwealth of Kentucky would doubtless get a portion, and Mr. Hart would doubtless receive much of the remainder. After all, he was the primary risk taker in reopening the park again and did so without government guarantees....(Oh, wait...)

Perhaps most telling is the Fair Board's president's relatively weak endorsement of this proposal this time around in this article:

...Harold Workman, the president of the board, said Friday that he hopes to work out a new agreement with Hart by the end of April. He said he believes that the new proposal featuring the $17.5 million city bond issue for interim improvements at the theme park “has some merit to it.”

Spoken like a true politician worried about his own political goose. SOME merit?

More details:

http://www.courier-j...dyssey=nav|head

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I have a lot of business dealings in Louisville and have spoken to my contacts there often about the KK situation and their views on the situation. I intended a nice detailed post, until I read this absolute gem:

KK is not a park worth redeeming. Irregardless of pie charts and attendance graphs, the park has always financially underperformed. It's limitations are boundless, and ultimately have always comprimised the overall success of the park. Generally speaking, KK is not (nor has it ever been) endearing to the masses. Louisvillians pass by the ghost town without a second thought. And if you ask the layperson on the street, they'll all say the same... they would rather attend KI or HW and they do not care if KK is there or not.

Simply, the people that drive the regional theme park (the suburban families) have no interest in KK. In large part, it's because of this:

KK's clientele escewed to the lower economic class... people that couldn't afford great expenses, many of whom went to the park under very limited monetary means.

Although you said you wouldn't sugar coat, I feel you did here just a bit, Shaggy. I'm told that simply put, the park was overrun by loud, obnoxious, discourteous teens and that respectable people did not feel safe or comfortable in the park.

Ed Hart's video (posted above) seems to dictate that attendance prooves the park's success under his leadership. But it never mentions the lacking financial profitability.

From the very beginning of Ed Hart's video where he addressed "How can you succeed where SIX didn't?," I though "snake oil salesman." It was immediately obvious that he intended to spend (borrow) large sums to create buzz and attendance, with no regard to long-term viability, all with the intention of selling out ASAP, as you wisely point out below. A company like SIX says "with attendance like that, a huge-ego company like ours is SURE to succeed!" Ed Hart pulled a shell game on them.

Ed Hart has thrived in business by buying, investing and re-selling various properties. His ventures, IMO, are not long lasting and are self serving. In KK's case... he dropped a ton of money into the fledgling park in the early years under the guise of successful attendance. When in reality, he was interested in passing off the business for a profit. He did exactly that, and left Premier (Six Flags) with a ton of new products in a park that was in arrears. Because of the debt, and low profit margin, SF deemed the park as virtually obsolete and maintained it in a less than desirable way until they finally walked. In the end, Ed Hart has reared his head again... now asking for $50 million from the government to re-open the park - a government that is currently dealing with it's own budget defecit. It's my speculation that Mr Hart wants to rebuild the park using taxpayer money, for his own personal gain and then plans on walking away. He's a business man, and is in the business to make money, not for some sort of emotional connection. Don't you think if the park was a cash cow under his original "leadership" that Mr Hart would have never sold it in the first place?

Harold Workman, of the KFEC, is in cahoots because a closed park sitting empty is a blemish on his record as the President of the facilities. He needs the park to secure the success of the fairgrounds, which has virtually lost all entertainment to the new YUM center. He's a good-old boy who's always been closely associated with Ed Hart.

In the end, the state (IMO) would be best served by removing and selling/auctioning the rides. Ultimately, if they re-invest in the grounds, they should do so only as a small local waterpark (ala Geauga Lake) and completely drop the "competitive regional park" facade.

I'm told that locals in the know believe this is the only hope for the property and that anything grander would be a boondoggle.

They should also remove Ed Hart from every business aspect, thus removing any unnecessary outsider agenda. KK can only achive success as a smaller park, state owned and operated, catering specifically to locals who are unable to afford the expenses of travel to larger parks.

That having been said, IMO the easiest and most cost affective choice at this point... is likely a bulldozer.

Shaggy

Brilliant post.

EDIT to add: If 98% of your visitors are local, it's not a "tourist attraction." 2% of 500,000 is 10,000. Lake Cumberland will get more out-of-state visitors than that on Memorial Day weekend alone. #1 tourist attraction in Kentucky my eye.

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Be it resolved that Kentucky Kingdom should be reopened with new public financing, due to it's economic benefits to both the state and it's tax payers. Loaning Mr. Hart the requested 17.5 million dollar loan will ensure the operation of a well proven amusement park. As seen in years prior the park can be successful. Some posters on this site have stated that the park was in fact not successful during it's original run with Mr. Hart, this is simply not true. If we look at Kentucky Kingdom's attendance figures, you will notice that not only did Mr. Hart's expert decisions bring in publicity for both the state and the park ,but in doing so he made Kentucky Kingdom the fastest growing amusement park in America. In closing, I want to remind everyone that the park is state owned. Mr. Hart is not asking to fund a private institution which will only generate revenue for himself, he is rather asking the state to loan him money to help operate a state owned institution that has time and again to be both positively beneficial to the state and it's taxpayers.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Agreement Extends Efforts To Reopen Kentucky Kingdom:

The Kentucky State Fair Board voted Thursday to extend until Sept. 30 an agreement reached last fall with a company headed by Louisville investor Ed Hart giving it rights to try to reopen Kentucky Kingdom.

A new financing proposal to revive the amusement park, which has been closed since the fall of 2009, also is being discussed among the fair board, Hart and the city. Details weren’t made public, but the parties are discussing a public-private partnership under which the cost of the redevelopment would be shared.

The initial deal on the idle park was to have expired Saturday. But the fair board approved an initial extension of Hart’s rights to Sept. 30, with the possibility of a second extension to April 30, 2012...

Under the extended agreement, Hart’s group will transfer its one-half ownership interest in approximately 20 acres of park property and improvements to the fair board in return for the board’s obligation to compensate Hart’s company if a lease is never signed...

http://www.courier-j...dyssey=nav|head

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Nope.

Yet another plan is now under consideration. The very first sentence of the linked article states:

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has proposed a plan for the city to issue $17.5 million in general-obligation bonds to get the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park reopened next year.

The bonds would be backed by an unnamed investor and occupational taxes and parking fees generated by the park at the Kentucky Exposition Center, according to a release issued by Chris Poynter, a spokesman for the mayor.

...

The Louisville Metro Council must approve issuing the bonds.

The plan, presented Wednesday morning to Kentucky Kingdom investor Ed Hart and Kentucky State Fair Board President Harold Workman, involves much less risk to taxpayers than previous deals proposed by Hart, Fischer said in the release.

(Emphasis added)

Even the title of the article notes that the mayor says that the city should issue bonds... You can't get much more passive or removed than a person saying that he thinks that someone else should do something. If someone saying someone should give something to this park meant that its opening was secured, it would've opened in 2010. It didn't. Then fans were assured via a glossy campaign that it would be open in 2011. It isn't. The money is not there. The "Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company" and Ed Hart are trying their darndest to secure funds from somewhere (ANYWHERE!). So far, they've been rejected at most every turn.

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MUCH more on this:

http://www.wave3.com/story/14575294/may

See also the video here:

http://www.whas11.com/video?id=121276979&sec=553497

The video notes the city does not have the unknown investor on board yet. This is in addition to Mr. Hart, who the video says is on board.

Note that this proposal would require far, far more investment by Mr. Hart, and would allow the City to get 30 percent of any profit in a future sale of Kentucky Kingdom.

This is far, far from a done deal.

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...Budget Committee Chair Marianne Butler, D-15, says reopening the park will be an important boost to the local economy, particularly for young people seeking employment over the summer.

However, Butler would rather have seen the administration use industrial revenue bonds, which would have been less of a risk for the taxpayers.

"General obligation bonds—the city pays them back, the city is obligated there. An industrial revenue bond is what we typically do to help companies such as this and they are the ones that are actually paying the bonds back, but they have our backing with them," she says....

http://www.wfpl.org/...s-bond-details/

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Pics of inside the Kingdom can be found in the link below. The park is being pretty darn maintained by Ed Hart from the pics I saw. It also looks the same exact way before the park closed in my opinion besides the grass, non-branding, and removal of a couple rides.

http://savekentuckykingdom.com/Kentucky_Kingdom/Recent_Photos.html

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  • 1 month later...
Workman told a panel of state lawmakers recently that the board and Louisville Metro Government are close to finalizing an agreement to re-open Kentucky Kingdom next year. He says it will take a total investment of about $50 to bring the park back to life.

Wow, they sure have negotiated one heck of an agreement.

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I'm an operations guy...not a finance guy (tehe), but let me get this straight: If this passes, myself, as a taxpaying citizen of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, am going to be putting MY hard earned money into a park that has failed twice already??? That's it, I'm moving to Ohio...

Feel free to correct me if I'm misunderstanding.

and there are reasons why the park failed, which he explained in the video above.

I know why the park failed. It costs a few arms and some legs to go. Lol. That's the normal price for a Six Flags park.

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