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LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) -- Investor Ed Hart wants to pump $120 million into the aging and defunct Kentucky Kingdom amusement park in the latest proposal to reopen it.
His Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company would invest $50 million in startup money and $70 million over the term of the lease with the state. It's not requesting any startup money from the state. "We're not asking the state to put up any cash at all," Hart said in a news conference Monday. "So that's $120 million that we're putting into the facility, and our goal and our vision for Kentucky Kingdom is to return it as the state's number one paid tourist attraction."
KKRC says it will restore all but one of the park's current rides and add four more, including a new $15 million roller coaster. It will also double the size of the water park, "Hurricane Bay."
Hart said his proposal may be the only one the state has received. As a matter of policy, the state does not comment on the number of proposals for such a project.
The proposal says KKRC would accept what amounted to the same lease terms approved for the Holiday World investors. Back in June, the Koch family, owners of Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., pulled out of negotiations that would have turned Kentucky Kingdom into a park called Bluegrass Boardwalk. They said the state mandated too much red tape which would have prevented them from making changes quickly, such as adding a new ride.
The amusement park has sat empty for three years and local supporters and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear are eager to either move forward or move on with plans for the site.
On Monday, Mary Mosley, one of Hart's partners, said of the park's potential patrons, "They are eating at the restaurants, they are supporting the city of Louisville, they are building tax revenue that I think is very important for the state."
Another partner, civic leader Ed Glasscock, is well-connected to political leaders. He said, "They are looking out for the interest of taxpayers. We respect that, we are looking out for Louisville and economic development here."
Hart's investment group submitted the bid last week to the state's Finance and Administration Cabinet to reopen the park. Hart's group is believed to be the only one to have submitted a proposal.
His previous two offers to reopen the park were rejected by the state. His most recent proposal in August asked the state to sign off as a guaranteer on a $30 million bond. Beshear said if that same caveat is part of Hart's latest proposal, it won't work: ""Putting the state on the line for amounts like that probably is a deal breaker," he said.
Jacob Zimmer is anxious to learn more about businessman Hart's latest proposal. Zimmer's online organization "Save Kentucky Kingdom" has more than 4,000 followers on Facebook.
"One of things that we've tried to do as an organization is alert the community that we are in a dire situation - three years is long enough and it's time to take action," said Zimmer.
When asked about the fact that his Facebook page has a huge following, Zimmer said: "It tells us that the community wants the park to reopen. It tells us that there's a very high level of support."
Beshear said he is "open-minded" about the future of the site, adding that if an amusement park is economically feasible, he's all for it.
According to the finance cabinet's bylaws, an evaluation committee will review and evaluate all offers determined to be acceptable.
Former employees like Zimmer say it should be a no-brainer, claiming that other theme parks across the state have received approval with less scrutiny. "Kentucky Kingdom is already there, it just needs a little bit of weed eating and a paint job," said Zimmer.