LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Thursday brought a new name and a popular new owner for Kentucky Kingdom.
The Koch family of Holiday World was awarded the lease to the property Thursday by the Kentucky Fair Board. They also brought with them a new name for the park when it opens next May.
The Kentucky State Fair Board unanimously approved a new 50-year lease for what will become Bluegrass Boardwalk. The new operators, the Kochs of Santa Claus, IN, have been in the theme park business since 1946.
The new park will be at the site of the old Kentucky Kingdom, which was abandoned after Six Flags Corporation declared bankruptcy in 2009.
"It's like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. All it needs is a lot of love, compassion and tenderness and we'll make it shine," said Bluegrass Boardwalk President Dan Koch. "There are pieces we can fix, or we wouldn't be doing this."
The fixes will be costly and quick. Bluegrass Boardwalk owners hope to get workers inside the park patching, painting and paving by this spring. They anticipate hiring 25 full time employees and 800 seasonal employees to run the park.
It will open in May 2013.
"In year one, it will be $15 million to $20 million. That's our first year investment. Historically, at Holiday World, we've invested about $10 million annually," said Koch.
Bluegrass Boardwalk will draw visitors from as far away as St. Louis and Chicago, but the new owners don't believe Holiday World attendance will be hurt.
"We have not reached any sort of saturation point for entertainment dollars," said Koch.
Local tourism leaders say it'll be a great benefit to the city.
"A tremendous asset for this area, for the city, we're thrilled about that,' said Convention and Visitors Bureau President James Wood."We're thrilled about it. People who come in for the weekend, they have the experience of a theme park, but they'll also go to the zoo. They'll go to the bat factory. They'll go out to Churchill Downs and other things Louisville has to offer. "
Bluegrass Boardwalk will pay $400,000 for the first year of the lease.
The amount will increase to $1 Million by 2016. The Kochs will get state tax credits, but the Kentucky General Assembly won't give any money up front.