By ALEXANDRA SONDEEN
Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc. confirmed that because of the poor condition of the former Kentucky Kingdom amusement park, the group has pushed back the park’s reopening to 2014.
The park was abandoned by Six Flags after the 2009 season amid bankruptcy proceedings. Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc., formed in February by four members of the Koch family that owns Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, plans to renovate and reopen the shuttered park adjacent to the Kentucky State Fairgrounds with a new name, Bluegrass Boardwalk.
According to Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc.’s development plan submitted to the Labor & Economic Development Committee of the Louisville Metro Council with an application for tax incentives, the 58-acre park has extensive problems. When the park was abandoned, the rides were not winterized, nor were the pumps for the water attractions. Many rides are missing parts and all facilities were stripped of anything valuable such as roller-coaster trains, lockers, inner tubes and the like.
“We believe 75 percent of the rides will require significant overhaul following in-depth inspection by certified ride experts,” Natalie Koch, CEO of Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc., said in a statement released Wednesday. Koch reported meeting on site with ride manufacturers, who agreed 11 months would not be long enough to refurbish the park.
The park’s buildings and grounds similarly were not maintained, according to the development plan. Many buildings have been damaged by leaking roofs and all require carpentry work and painting. Restrooms still contain human waste and were not winterized, causing further damage. Vegetation has taken over in many areas, creating unsafe walkways and interfering with existing attractions.
Koch asked the Kentucky State Fair Board on Wednesday to modify the proposed lease to reflect a 2014 opening. The board granted preliminary approval to the 50-year lease with two 25-year renewal options in February and it is awaiting final approval by the state after all financing and tax incentives are in line.
The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority last month unanimously granted preliminary approval to Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc.’s application for $3.9 million in tourism tax credits. The organization is also seeking incentives from the city of Louisville through the establishment of a tax-increment financing district.
According to the development plan, Louisville would release 80 percent of the occupational license fees generated by the wages of Bluegrass Boardwalk employees for up to 10 years. The organization estimates about a half-million dollars would be returned to Bluegrass Boardwalk over that time period.
Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc. plans to invest $16.5 million in the park upfront, an increase from the previously proposed $15.6 million. Because all improvements and additions would become the property of the state fair board, the organization said it will not develop the deteriorating park without state and local incentives, according to the development plan.
Koch said the group will begin working in the park as soon as the lease is signed, and ride experts will inspect each attraction in detail.
Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc. has said it will use the same business model for its new park as the Santa Claus parks, with safety, cleanliness, friendliness and value for families leading the way.