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Kentucky Kingdom Lease Approved
01-26-2013, 01:34 AM
Post: #1
Kentucky Kingdom Lease Approved
A long-anticipated deal to reopen Kentucky Kingdom, perhaps by spring 2014, was approved Thursday by the Kentucky State Fair Board.

A group headed by businessman Ed Hart, armed with a new 50-year lease for about 60 acres at the Kentucky Exposition Center where the amusement park has been since the mid-1980s, has 90 days to finalize financing.

“It’s gratifying to see this project finally coming together,” Hart said. “We believe we are up to the task. ... We look forward to the challenge.”

Hart’s team has agreed to invest $45 million — $20 million from him and his partners and $25 million expected to be borrowed over 10 years from an unidentified Kentucky bank. The park last operated in fall 2009 before Six Flags filed for bankruptcy and abandoned the lease.

The $45 million would be put toward restoring the park by 2017, including $1.5 million for new rides and $9 million for new water park improvements. After 2017, he must spend at least $1 million a year on park improvements. Even though his group would pay for the rides, they would be the state’s property.

The water park, Hurricane Bay, would be expanded on 4 acres adjacent to the park’s 57-acre parcel. Hart’s group would pay $475,000 annual rent to the state at first, increasing to a cap of $1.2 million.

Kentucky Kingdom also would get a share — up to 50 percent — of the money its visitors pay to park at the fairgrounds.

Hart’s group was the only entity that responded in October when the state put out the call for developers interested in reopening the park. Since then, Hart has been negotiating lease terms with state finance officials and Fair Board officials.

Hart expects he’ll be able to secure the $25 million loan once the group is approved for $1 million in 10 annual sales tax rebates.

In addition, the city is arranging for as much as $200,000 annually for 10 years including a partial rebate of the occupational tax revenues the park generates. The Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, which expects the park will help fill hotel rooms, has pledged $100,000 more annually for five years.

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