Fair Board doesn't consider Hart proposal, still looking for new Kentucky Kingdom operator

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on August 16, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 16 at 6:21 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Two months after a deal to reopen Kentucky Kingdom collapsed, the Kentucky State Fair Board on Thursday declined to consider a new proposal from the amusement park's former owner.

Instead, acting on a request by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D), the board voted to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for anyone interested in operating the amusement park.

The park has been closed for three straight summers after Six Flags declared bankruptcy in 2010. 

In 2011, the Fair Board scuttled a proposal by former Kentucky Kingdom operator Ed Hart and entered into negotiations with the owners of Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.  Those discussions ended abrubtly on June 15, when the Holiday World group - citing concerns about working with a government-owned entity - pulled out.

After the deal's collapse, the Fair Board requested guidance and advice from Beshear.

"We have the authority and responsibility to manage this property, and we have not been succesful," said Fair Board Chairman Ron Carmicle, "We recognize the fact that we have not been able to accomplish that, and we're asking the state to be more involved with us to make sure we don't fail again."

"My partners and myself thought we had this done," Hart said.  "In the two months that they didn't start the RFP process, we put together a $40 million proposal.  And now we're back to square one with an RFP process."

Hart's investors pledged $40 million to restore and improve the decaying park, $10 million of their own money, state tourism tax credits, no state money, but a $30 million loan guaranteed by Kentucky taxpayers -- a major sticking point for Beshear.

"It sounds a little risky from their viewpoint because they dont want to guarantee it I guess and that always makes you hesitate," Beshear said.  "If they dont want to guarantee it but they want the taxpayers to, that kind of raises a question or two in my mind."

"But there will be a lot of give or take on any of these types of proposals," Beshear added.  "We're going to be open minded and see what comes."

Hart contends the state wouldn't be risking anything because Kentucky owns the amusement park and would own the improvements funded by the loan.

"It's $40 million that goes to improve their property, including our $10 million," Hart said.

Hart said he's not sure if his investment group will resubmit their proposal.

"I don't know how many times we can keep trying to jump over the bar if the bar keeps moving," Hart said.

"I'm really confident that we will get an operator," said Fair Board President Harold Workman.  "Will it be someone we've spoken to before?  Could be."

"I really like Harold Workman personally," Hart said, "but I believe Harold has been saying that for three years."
 

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