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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Gov. Steve Beshear is calling for "widespread solicitation" to find a new operator for the now defunct Kentucky Kingdom.
Beshear drafted a letter Wednesday to state fair board chairman Ron Carmicle. In his letter, Beshear asks the board to "issue a request for proposal" and to "act quickly" to ensure the future of the now-closed amusement park that once attracted a million visitors each year.
Beshear's letter was drafted a day before the state fair is set to meet. And it emerges at the same time as a new $40 million proposal to reopen the park by Ed Hart, and Louisville business leaders Mary Moseley, Bruce Lunsford, and Ed Glasscock. "We have an urgency to open this facility," Hart told WDRB's Bill Francis on Thursday. "But we've now put together a proposal of $40 million to get it done."
But according to the governor's office, Hart's $40 million proposal would require a $30 million investment that requires the state as a guarantor. If a default were to occur, taxpayers would be left footing the bill, according to Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for the governor.
"Which puts the taxpayers on the hook and I don't know how interested the taxpayers will be in the state taking that kind of risk," Governor Beshear said on Thursday.
At least $10 million would come from Hart's investment group, Richardson said.
A plan submitted earlier this year by the Koch family, the owners and operators of Holiday World amusement park in Santa Claus, Indiana, fell through. Richardson said their plan was different because it would've required a $15 million loan and would not have been a burden to the taxpayer if defaulted.
In his letter, Beshear writes that the RFP "should not presume that the state should make a significant capital investment."
"To suggest for a moment that there are parties out there that aren't aware that Kentucky Kingdom has been closed for 3 years, and they're going to jump forward now is a little disingenuous. We don't understand the stalled tactic. It doesn't make sense," says Ed Hart.
"To be able to have a clear, concise RFP, we should not consider any proposal at this time," says Ron Carmicle, the Fair Board chairman.
Earlier in the day, Kentucky Fair Board President Harold Workman said of Hart, "It says he's very interested doesn't it? And that's good. We want developers and operators that want to open this park, and obviously we've had a couple of hiccups when dealing with his group before. Hopefully we can get past that and see what this latest proposal looks like."
When asked about a specific timeframe to have the park reopened, Workman said "our timeline was yesterday, of course. Everyone knows that. But it's important that we put together the right deal, because you're talking about a long, long lease. You're talking 30, 40 or 50 years."
Workman says the board wants to reach a deal that is fair to everyone that doesn't put a burden on taxpayers.
Now, only time will tell what will happen to Kentucky Kingdom.
"We'll get somebody in play there. It's certainly the city's desire and my desire that Kentucky Kingdom reopens as soon as possible," says Mayor Greg Fischer.
"If we can't, let's move on and figure out what we're going to do with this property here," says Governor Steve Beshear.
Ed Hart says he is going to speak with his partners to determine whether they will resubmit their proposal.
Fair board officials say they hope for this entire process to be complete within the next two months.