Kentucky Kingdom sues state in expo center parking dispute
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky Kingdom has sued four state government agencies, accusing them of violating a deal to give free parking to the amusement park’s season pass holders.
Under a 2015 parking agreement, Kentucky Kingdom pays the state at least $400,000 annually for free parking for its pass holders. The 22,445 spaces at the Kentucky Exposition Center are available on a “first come first serve” basis.
But attorneys for Kentucky Kingdom argue in a lawsuit filed July 11 that the state departments – including the Kentucky State Fair Board – have restricted parking for park patrons by granting “exclusive” use to the Kentucky State Fair midway operator and other tenants of the expo center.
As a result, the lawsuit alleges, Kentucky Kingdom has lost revenue and attendance and will “continue to be irreparably harmed by the loss of clientele and business goodwill.” Park attorneys are asking Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate to rule that the state has breached its lease and parking agreement and order it to stop favoring other tenants.
Besides the fair board, the defendants in the suit are the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet, the Kentucky State Property and Buildings Commission and the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. Representatives of those agencies signed a 2013 lease agreement with Kentucky Kingdom.
The agencies want the case dismissed. In a filing last week, the finance cabinet noted that its secretary, William Landrum, only recently became aware of the dispute and believes that under the lease Kentucky Kingdom must participate in mediation before filing suit.
“Secretary Landrum further believes that all parties share a common interest in the success of the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park and the Kentucky Exposition Center, and therefore a reasonable compromise can be reached addressing the issues in dispute,” according to the finance cabinet’s motion.
Asked on Wednesday if there have been any discussions about a resolution, cabinet spokeswoman Pamela Trautner said, “We are waiting for our first court date to see how to proceed from there.”
The fair board doesn’t comment on pending litigation, spokesman Cody Patterson said in an email.
But Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford, a partner and investor in Kentucky Kingdom, said park officials tried unsuccessfully to work out a solution with fair board representatives in “numerous meetings.”
“We finally had to get involved in litigation to kind of move it forward, but none of us wanted to do that,” Lunsford said in a telephone interview.
A hearing on the dismissal motions is scheduled for Wednesday, August 22 in Frankfort.
Kentucky Kingdom leases about 57 acres from the state at the exposition center, according to the lease.
The lawsuit also claims the state has required Kentucky Kingdom guests to pay the state fair admission charge to access the amusement park, which adjusts its schedule but stays open during the fair. The park is asking Wingate to allow its visitors to enter the expo center without paying admission fees.
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