When Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay reopens in April 2015, the park will boast five new marquee rides. Also by that time, the owners will have exceeded the amount of investment in the park required by their contract with the State Fair Board and they will have done so a year earlier than the contract required. The marquee rides represent an additional investment of $30 million on the heels of the $40 million investment in 2014.
Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay, which will close for the season this weekend, boasted close to 600,000 visitors in its inaugural season after being re-purchased and rehabilitated by Ed Hart and a team of investors. More than 117,000 season tickets were sold. “If you do the math,” Hart said at a press conference this afternoon, “that’s almost one pass for every 10 inhabitants of Louisville.”
“You wanted more rides,” Hart added. “You got ’em. You wanted more hours. You got ’em.” The operating calendar will increase from 94 days to 110 days, and the park will operate for longer hours on weekdays.
The new rides:
Cyclos: A 60-foot tall rotating and swinging pendulum that loops 360 degrees.
Skycatcher: Swings that take 24 passengers 130 feet in the air.
Enterprise: A Ferris wheel with gondolas … but tilted.
Terror to the Third Power (T3): A suspended looping coaster with five “gravity-defying” inversions with a track length of 2,260 feet.
Raging Rapids River Ride: An eight-raft rapid river ride (kids as little as 3-feet tall can ride with a parent).
(After John Mulcahy, director of marketing, announced the rides, Hart noted all the reporters were all shaking their heads “no” — with the exception of Courtney Godfrey from WDRB. He called the rest of us “a bunch of wussies.”)
Season passes for 2015 will again be available for $59.95 plus tax through this weekend and then again during the holiday season, just like the 2014 season passes. Season passes also get you $1 soft drinks and 20 percent off food, beverages and gift items. This year they’re even throwing in a free sports bottle, which is a $13 value.
Hart said Kentucky Kingdom is “the best theme park value in America.”
They assembled a team of more than 1,500 people and paid them above minimum wage, he said. Returning team members will receive a 50-cent raise in 2015. Kentucky Kingdom also employes 70 full-time team members at $55,000 – $65,000 a year.
This year the park marketed only in Lexington and Louisville. Hart believes that the five new rides go a long way toward making Kentucky Kingdom a “destination” theme park, so they will be investing more than $1 million to market regionally in cities like Cincinnati and Nashville.
Hart recapped the park’s history: The park opened in 1987 with a developer from Texas and closed after one season. The owner “oversold” the park by comparing it to Disneyland and seriously under-delivered. Three years later, Hart bought it and by the time he sold it in 1997, the park was seeing 1.4 million visitors a season.
The next owners made the park the first Six Flags park that wasn’t built by Six Flags, but they slowly stopped reinvestment in the infrastructure and by the time it closed in 2010, they were seeing fewer than 500,000 visitors a season. It closed, and Hart and his investors — including Ed Glasscock, also in attendance at the press conference — bought it in 2013.
When asked if anything made him nervous prior to re-opening the park, he said two things did: We had a “horribly harsh winter,” which made construction difficult. Also the winter weather delayed the last day of school, effectively causing the park to lose two weeks of its season.
In the past, the park has had October hours that were Halloween-themed. Hart said the market is different now and that Louisville has an abundance of horror-attractions. But he didn’t rule out doing something “October-fest-y” in the future.
When it was noted that opening in April meant the park would be competing with things like the Kentucky Derby Festival and the Derby itself, he just shrugged it off. “I love competition.”