BLUEGRASS BOARDWALK DEAD: Koch family withdraws from Kentucky Kingdom deal

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on June 15, 2012 at 11:43 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 15 at 11:43 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Bluegrass Boardwalk, the planned replacement for the shuttered Kentucky Kingdom amusement park, is dead.

Citing a growing discomfort with lease terms and dissatisfaction with government regulations, Bluegrass Boardwalk CEO Natalie Koch announced late Friday afternoon that it was withdrawing from the project .

This year is the third consecutive summer that the Fairgrounds amusement park has been closed.  Six Flags announced it would close Kentucky Kingdom in February, 2010.

The blow to Louisville's summer amusement and Kentucky tourism comes six months after the Holiday World owners announced their plans.

In a statement, Koch said the partners "were financially prepared to meet the challenge of reopening the abandoned park, however the many layers of governmental regulations and stipulations ultimately caused them to withdraw."

Kentucky State Fair Board President Harold Workman was not available for comment but the Fair Board released a statement.

"We are disappointed with the announcement today from the Koch family about Bluegrass Boardwalk. The Fair Board remains committed to finding options for the amusement park and will assess the situation over the next few weeks,” read the Fair Board statement.

Koch said the family "entered into this discussion last October with full expectation of leasing the park. However, we have come to the realization that leasing a park rather than owning it would take us too far from the business model my family has followed for more than 60 years."

Just this week, Kentucky approved $3.9 million in tax incentives for Bluegrass Boardwalk.

Two weeks ago, the Koch family asked the State Fair Board to push back the lease to open Bluegrass Boardwalk in 2014 instead of 2013.

The previous owner of Kentucky Kingdom, Ed Hart, sold the park to Six Flags in 1997.  In May, 2010, Hart and the fair board entered into an agreement to operate the park, pending final negotiations.

Yet, in September, 2011, Hart announced that the state had severed the agreement.

The Koch family said their involvement began one month later.

Hart told WHAS11 last month that if his deal had worked out, the amusement park would be open right now.

After learning of the Koch family's announcement on Friday, Hart told WHAS11 that he is not surprised.

Hart said he is standing by his original statements and criticism of the Bluegrass Boardwalk deal.  He had said that he believed the Koch Family's interest in the park has always been to protect Holiday World, which operates two hours west of Louisville in Santa Claus, Indiana.

Hart would not comment on WHAS11's question whether he thought the Koch family had been insincere in its effort to operate Bluegrass Boardwalk.

It is not immediately clear how long it may take a new operator to open the park, now that the process appears to be back to square one.

Hart would not comment whether he is interested in resubmitting a proposal to operate Kentucky Kingdom. 


 

(June 15, 2012) Louisville, Kentucky ---Following nine months of planning to reopen Louisville's shuttered amusement park, Bluegrass Boardwalk, Inc. withdrew from the project Friday.

"We entered into this discussion last October with full expectation of leasing the park," Bluegrass Boardwalk CEO Natalie Koch said. "However, we have come to the realization that leasing a park rather than owning it would take us too far from the business model my family has followed for more than 60 years."

Koch says she and her partners were financially prepared to meet the challenge of reopening the abandoned park, however the many layers of governmental regulations and stipulations ultimately caused them to withdraw.

Koch says she and her partners believe reopening the Louisville park is still a worthwhile project and they wish the future operator well.

"It's been a lifelong dream for my family to operate a second park," says Koch, whose family owns and operates Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana. "It's hard to walk away from what we believed was a winning partnership for Kentucky and our team. But at the end of the day, the terms of the project did not fit our business model. It was time to withdraw."

A letter terminating the proposed lease agreement was delivered to the Kentucky State Fair Board Friday afternoon.


Kentucky State Fair Board released the following statement:

“We are disappointed with the announcement today from the Koch family about Bluegrass Boardwalk. The Fair Board remains committed to finding options for the amusement park and will assess the situation over the next few weeks.”


Statement from Mayor Fischer regarding the announcement by the Koch family:
 
"We are disappointed with today's news and will engage quickly with state officials to try and find a new partner for the park."


 

 

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