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Few bidders show up for Kentucky Kingdom tour, Ed Hart aims for 2014 re-opening

by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 18 at 7:22 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- With the clock ticking on Kentucky Kingdom's future, few bidders showed up Tuesday to inspect the site, closed for three summers after Six Flags declared bankruptcy in 2010.

Developer Ed Hart said he was one of two interested parties to tour the amusement park, the other was one of his former employees, who Hart declined to name.

"He said he was here on his own," Hart said.  "that there were some people that were interested that had talked to him and wanted to get his read on it." 

Dressed in white shirts and khaki pants, Hart's team came back to where an earlier deal fell apart last year.

"We had 18 people working one year to put those numbers together," Hart said.  "We're just here today to see how much off that was in terms of dilapidation, etc. since we left.  It's off.  It's going to cost more money."

Since 2010, two plans for redeveloping the theme park have fallen short.  Hart's group failed to reach an agreement with the Fair Board in 2011.  Earlier this year, Holiday World owners pulled out of their deal.

"The fair board said they had several national companies interested in this property," Hart said.  "Where are they?  Why didn't they show up?  If somebody's going to invest tens of millions of dollars in this property, I think they would so what Ed Hart did, they would at least come here and look at it."

Hart said the walk-through, the only one scheduled in Kentucky's Request for Proposal, revealed "additional problems," but his $40 million bid includes a contingency for expected deterioration.

"Our intention is to open up all the attractions," Hart said.  "The only ones we would not open are ones that would not be operated safely.  And there's one or two that might fall into that category, but we expect to open up every single ride.  More importantly, we expect to add many new attractions."

Hart's August proposal asked the state to guarantee a $30 million loan in the event his investment group defaulted.  But, the state's official "Request for Proposal" prohibits the Commonwealth to be "immediately responsible to cure a default," as a dealbreaker. 

"We understand their requirements, and we're going to have our proposal in on time," Hart said.

Hart was asked if his new proposal, the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company partnership with hotelier Mary Moseley, business partner Bruce Lunsford and civic leader Ed Glasscock, will fit the state's requirements.

"Well, you'll have to wait and see," he said.

"Certain political leaders are saying they want to protect the taxpayer," Hart continued.  "On the other hand, every single year the park is down is costing the taxpayer millions and millions of dollars because this park operated for twenty years making money for the state."

And though Hart says it should generate tax revenues again, Governor Steve Beshear recently suggested it may be time to consider other uses of the property.  Hart said the state would be scrapping a $200 million gold mine that would cost another $10 million to demolish.

He says he's ready to reopen the park.  The question is, is anyone else?

"We're going to submit a proposal.  You're going to have to ask the politicians if they think we're the last best hope," Hart said.  "It seems every time we zig right, they go left.  Every time we go left they go right." 

Hart said the earliest the park could re-open is 2014 - to give enough time to order replacement parts from European ride manufacturers.

"You wait so long, you get to the point that maybe you won't be able to reopen the park," Hart said. "It's too late."

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