Follow the WDRB Newsroom, Reporters and Anchors.More >>
Tweets from the WDRB Newsroom, Reporters and Anchors.More >>
SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (WDRB) --- We now have firsthand information as to why the Koch family bailed out on the Bluegrass Boardwalk amusement park. The chairman of the project is not placing blame on state or local officials.
Natalie Koch says it was a tough decision, but her family, which also owns Holiday World, decided that Bluegrass Boardwalk was not a good fit for the way they do business. And she specifically said the State Fair Board is not to blame.
"It just wasn't a good fit for us as a family."
And Natalie Koch says that's the bottom line. After months of negotiations to lease the old Kentucky Kingdom property, the 4-person Bluegrass Boardwalk board pulled the plug late Friday. The family decided that the deal, wrapped in government red tape, did not come with the kind of independence that has made Holiday World a success.
"For example, if we needed move a ride or just extract a ride, here we have the freedom to do that," Koch said. "And if we're working with the government we have less freedom to do that. And for us that just made us nervous and decided that the project just wasn't for us."
But Koch specifically does not blame the State Fair Board, or outgoing President Harold Workman. In fact, she says Workman's pending retirement was one factor in the decision to bail on Bluegrass Boardwalk.
"We realized that the same people are not going to be here next year -- specifically, Harold Workman -- who has been wonderful. We have just had a great working relationship. But he's going to be leaving. We don't know who his replacement will be, and that kind of uncertainty is hard for us because we plan years in advance."
And Koch denies there was any concern that Bluegrass Boardwalk would pull customers away from Holiday World. In fact, she hopes someone else takes over the park.
"It's not a factor of competition. It's just a factor of it just doesn't work for us. it's going to work for somebody, but not for us."
And Koch called the decision to discontinue the project, heartbreaking.
"I feel really bad for the people of Louisville, and we appreciate all of the emails and letters and things of support ... and I wish it would have worked out but, unfortunately, it's just not for us."
Koch believes the Kentucky Kingdom property can be successful as an amusement park. In a statement Friday night, the Fair Board said it remains committed to finding options for the park.