State lawmakers slash funding for Waterfront Park


by Brooke Hasch

Posted on April 3, 2014 at 11:41 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 4 at 9:07 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Waterfront Park is treading water this week after Kentucky lawmakers decided to slash its funding completely.

The cuts mean a loss of 18 percent of the park's annual budget.

"It is a significant chunk," Mike Kimmel, the director of Waterfront Development Corp., said.

Kimmel said the news came without warning.

"We were not anticipating any cuts and they cut the whole thing out," Kimmel said.

Since its inception, Waterfront Park has depended on the state's contribution of $420,800 a year. That's part of an overall $2.3 million budget.

"Waterfront Park is the front door to the city, to the state. It's the city's park," Kimmel said.

The city funds 40 percent of the waterfront's budget, but Kimmel said it won't be enough to keep its events afloat.

"The third and Fourth of July is an event that always costs the Waterfront money, so we're going to cut that out," Kimmel said.

The two-day event draws in 150,000 people every year, but it also draws up about $80,000 of debt, despite the efforts of its sponsors. The cuts don't stop there. The waterfront will also eliminate part of the Festival of Riverboats set for October, a centennial celebration for the Belle of Louisville.

"It will be a local event, instead of one that was drawing boats from all over the country. We'll celebrate the Belle's birthday in a lower key fashion," Kimmel said.

The six-day event will get cut down to a weekend celebration.

"Make no mistake," Linda Harris with the Belle of Louisville said. "We will celebrate the Belle turning 100."

"Most riverboats only had a five-year lifespan. So, to have a riverboat, the oldest one, to be 100-years-old. That's a big deal," Kimmel said.

The corporation is focusing on refunds to those who've already bought tickets.

Unfortunately, the cuts will continue. Kimmel said everything is on the table. He's hoping to schedule more concerts in the park this summer, that will make a profit for the Waterfront.