Regional amusement parks vie for Kentucky Kingdom customers


by Joe Arnold

Posted on July 5, 2010 at 1:52 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 5 at 5:33 PM

(WHAS11) - The walkways at Kentucky Kingdom are empty, so quiet on this Independence Day holiday that visitors can hear the sounds of nature, a chorus of cicadas replacing the laughter of children.

Meanwhile, just one hour to the west,  the Voyage rollercoaster at Holiday World might as well be called the Vulture, as the Santa Claus Indiana park feasts on Louisville's loss.

"Indirectly, I think,  yes we have," said Matt Eckert, Holiday World General Manager.  "Our attendance is up by about ten percent this year.  And we're seeing significant growth in the number of consignment sellers we have in the Louisville area.  Particularly, there's been quite an upswing in the number of tickets we've been selling in the Kroger stores which is primarily in the Louisville market."

Eckert has worked at Holiday World for about ten years, part of the team assembled by the late Will Koch to dramatically expand the operations.  The Southern Indiana facility now draws more than 1 million visitors per year, double the number of ten years ago.

And Holiday World isn't alone marketing to Louisville.  King's Island in Cincinnati is running edgy television commercials in Louisville and a Bowling Green, Kentucky amusement park is aggressively advertising in Louisville.

Beech Bend Park and Splash Lagoon says it is getting business from Louisville and Elizabethtown and hopes to attract a record 250,000 customers this year.  After May flooding, a $5 million water park renovation is finally expected to open this weekend.

Beech Bend is advertising on Louisville television, radio, billboards and direct marketing on bags and tray liners at Wendy's restaurnants in Louisville.  McDonalds restaurants in Louisville spotlight Holiday World information.

Amusement Park operators know that this could be a one time opportuntity to get Louisville business in the void created by the closing of Kentucky Kingdom.

"Our marketing strategy for the Louisville area is the same as our marketing strategy everywhere, and we focus on family," Eckert said adding that the park has alsom seen an upswing in group sales, including school groups from Louisville.

"I wouldn't say we did a whole lot different," Eckert said, "Obviously, we did increase our efforts in the Louisville market and we've done so in all of our top markets the past few years as we continue to grow and continue to build our park."

Nearly everywhere you look -- signs of summer fun.  Everywhere but here in Louisville.

Last year, Kentucky Kingdom drew some 5,000 guests on the Fourth of July holiday.
This year, it's a ghost town.