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Source: Kentucky Kingdom proposal in doubt

by Joe Arnold


Posted on October 23, 2012 at 7:45 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) --  State officials involved with the review of a proposal to reopen Kentucky Kingdom are "doubtful" it can be accepted in its present form, sources tell WHAS11 News.
An investment group led by developer Ed Hart released its official proposal on Monday.  It calls for a $120 million investment over a 50 year lease.

The investors propose a $120 million investment in Kentucky Kingdom, $50 million in the first two years to double the size of the water park and to restore the park's 100 buildings (all but one ride). The Greezed Lightning roller coaster would be removed but a new $15 million roller coaster would be built.
"It's about time that the state stop looking at Kentucky Kingdom as a problem and started looking at it as an opportunity," Hart said at a news conference, flanked by fellow investors Ed Glasscock and Mary Moseley.
Sources familiar with the review of the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company proposal describe three main concerns:
1.  By using Kentucky Kingdom rides as collateral for a private loan, the state would still be creating a debt.
2.  Concerns about the timing of the park reopening
3.  Concerns that the proposal would jeopardize possible future uses of the Kentucky Kingdom property.
Hart did not comment when apprised of the concerns.
The governor's office had no comment on Hart's new proposal -- but Governor Steve Beshear has indicated he is not willing to risk putting the state on the hook for the financing of Kentucky Kingdom.
Hart's proposal, however, cites a Kentucky law (KRS 56.515 Leaseback agreement for fairgrounds improvements) that specifically allows private investors to use State Fair Board property to secure private financing.
Sources tell WHAS11 that the state wants to reopen Kentucky Kingdom if it can, but the main concerns would have to be addressed.
"This is exactly what they wanted and we're prepared to deliver," Hart said at the news conference.
Hart believes his group may have submitted the only proposal.
"The Commonwealth is evaluating the documents received and will be taking the appropriate subsequent steps very soon," said Pamela Trautner, a spokeswoman for the Finance & Administration Cabinet.
"If there aren't any other proposals, I would hope we would get a phone call from the state to say let's sit down and discuss this," Hart said.
Hart's proposal encourages a response by November 1 to facilitate the investment plan and an opening date of May, 2014.
The state has not been enthusiastic about Ed Hart's proposals in the past.
He has a pending lawsuit against the state. Kentucky dropped Hart for a Holiday World proposal that ultimately collapsed and refused to consider his new proposal this year. Hart's business partner, Bruce Lunsford, is a political rival of Governor Steve Beshear. The governor has suggested that it may be time to find a better purpose for the property.
"I can't read minds," Hart said. "and I'm not going to speculate what the state officials are thinking.  I can say it's been very frustrating that three years has gone by and here we are."
Yet investor and civic leader Ed Glasscock is still optimistic.
"I think that the governor and the state officials have decided to do it the right way, send out an RFP, be very thoughtful about it in protecting the interests of taxpayers and we're trying to be responsive," Glasscock said.  "We're not trying to rush anybody."
"I think that the elected officials have been working on a number of different projects," Glasscock told WHAS11. "The governor has been working on gaming and a lot of economic development projects and this doesn't have as high a priority with him as it does with us.  So we think now that the administration will be more focused on it on light of the proposal that we've made."