LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It's not often that my two elementary school age sons have a abiding interest in one of the stories I am covering on WHAS11, but the long road back to life for Kentucky Kingdom was different.
After four summers with the 25 year old amusement park shuttered upon the bankruptcy and exit of Six Flags in 2009, a group of local investors stepped in to reopen the 63 acre park at the Kentucky Exposition Center. On May 24, Kentucky Kingdom was officially reborn and I finally had an answer to my children's frequent inquiries whether they could board a rollercoaster there.
The absence was too long for my thrill-ride loving sons, but it might have been a blessing in disguise.
On a recent visit, it was like walking into a totally new facility. Yes, the general layout was familiar, but the attractions, restaurants and grounds had the finishing touches of operators who understood that they could not just reopen the park, they had to convince people who had watched its decline that it was worthy of their business.
Sam and Henry Arnold give the new Kentucky Kingdom (and Hurricane Bay) four enthusiastic thumbs up.
The painstaking attention to detail of developer Ed Hart was apparent the moment we arrived. Having covered the fits and starts of Hart's attempts to reclaim the park he had operated in its best years, I stopped by the front offices to let him know I was there.
Not surprisingly, Hart was in deep conversation with a member of the management team, I imagined about something Hart had observed in one of walks around the park. Public Relations Director John Mulcahy had told me of Hart's meticulousness and it served as a reassurance to a naturally cautious parent.
And so it was that our first destination was the newest rollercoaster, the ten-story Lightning Run will get your pulse racing in the morning with its 100-foot, 80-degree drop. Thunder Run, meanwhile, is the park's classic wooden roller coaster with relentless hills that lift you out of your seat. My boys could have only ridden both of the coasters all day and been happy, but the park offers a good variety of attractions and entertainment that allow families to pace themselves.
One hidden jewel is the 5D cinema, an indoor movie ride with a thrilling and fun 3D mini-movie of the film, Rio. The kids already know and love the movie and its songs. This is a ride I would expect at Universal Studios. Very well done.
Another surprise adjacent to the Rio ride is the sea lion show in the park's Aqua Theater. It's unique entertainment with rescued sea lions with the added benefit of resting your feet for about 25 minutes in the shade.
Even without visiting the water park and the children's play area (King Louie's Playland), we had a full day hopping from one attraction to the next.
What's also nice about Kentucky Kingdom is they don't forget that a simple ride may be just the right speed for tweens, such as Professor John's Flying Machines which allows the individual rider to control their own mini-airplane. Other classic experiences that allow children to get behind the wheel include the bumper cars and tin lizzies. Again, simple but just the kind of experience the kids crave.
We did not use the water park during our visit, we are saving it for a future visit all its own. When we return next year, the T2 inverted roller coaster is scheduled to be back on line. And in 2016, the Twisted Twins rollercoaster will reopen, all part of the $44 million reinvestment in Kentucky Kingdom.
The lease agreement includes a promise to invest between $1 million and $2.5 million each year, to keep Kentucky Kingdom on track.
Tip from a dad. If you can manage a day off during the week, the crowds are very manageable.
Kentucky Kingdom adult admission is $44.95 ($39.95 online), with $34.95 admission for both children under 48 inches tall. Children under 3 years old are free. Seniors 55 and older pay a discounted $34.95 admission. Military and first responders also get a discount, with a $35.95 admission price.
Season passes are $99.95.
Because Kentucky Kingdom is located within the Kentucky Exposition Center, $8 per vehicle parking is controlled by the Kentucky State Fair Board.
NOTE: People attending the 2014 Kentucky State Fair can pay only $9.95 for unlimited rides at Kentucky Kingdom. Hurricane Bay will not be open during the fair. Season pass holders can enjoy free rides at Kentucky Kingdom during the Kentucky State Fair.
Kentucky Kingdom Announces Operating Plan for 2014 Kentucky State Fair
Louisville, Kentucky, August 5, 2014 – This year’s Kentucky State Fair will mark the return of Kentucky Kingdom, adding more than 30 of its rides and attractions to the State Fair experience. (Kentucky Kingdom’s Hurricane Bay water park will be closed during the Fair.) However, Kentucky Kingdom will operate differently during the Fair than it has in past years. Kentucky Kingdom season pass holders will have access to the park’s rides and attractions for free, after purchasing their Kentucky State Fair admission. According to John Mulcahy, Kentucky Kingdom spokesperson, “With this added value for our season pass holders, we continue to emphasize the park’s commitment to affordable family fun.”
But what about people who don’t have a Kentucky Kingdom season pass? According to Mulcahy, “Kentucky Kingdom is celebrating its return to the Kentucky State Fair by offering all State Fair visitors an opportunity to purchase a Kentucky Kingdom One-Day Park Admission and Ride Pass for only $9.95 plus tax. This specially priced ticket will be sold exclusively at area Kroger stores from Wednesday, August 6 through the final day of the fair (Sunday, August 24). During the Fair, the public may also purchase admission to Kentucky Kingdom at the park’s front gates and those tickets are priced at $19.95 plus tax. Remember that entry to Kentucky Kingdom doesn’t include admission to the State Fair; State Fair admission is extra. Also, the State Fair carnival midway operates independently of the theme park, selling its own ride coupons and wristbands, which are good only for rides and attractions on the midway.”
During the Fair, Kentucky Kingdom will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. and on Mondays through Fridays from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. The Hurricane Bay water park will be closed during the Fair, but will reopen, along with the rest of Kentucky Kingdom’s rides and attractions, on Labor Day weekend (Saturday, August 30 through Monday, September 1) and for the remaining Saturdays and Sundays through September 28. For more information, visit the park’s website at www.kentuckykingdom.com/KYSTATEFAIR.