After an unsuccessful outing with Ed Hart, hotelier Mary Moseley is back in the hunt for Kentucky Kingdom.
Insiders are telling Insider Louisville that Moseley, president and CEO of Al J. Schneider Co., is in talks with Dan Koch, whose family owns Holiday World, about participating in the financing of Koch’s plan to reopen the state-owned Kentucky Kingdom.
Several sources including Schneider Company employees confirmed the talks, but declined to comment.
Moseley did not respond to calls for comment.
Insiders tell Insider Louisville that rather than owning a piece of the mothballed, 60-acre amusement park, Moseley is interested in playing essentially the same role she played in Hart’s failed attempt to get state government backing to open the park.
Moseley agreed to guarantee about $20 million after Hart failed to get Kentucky officials and Louisville metro government to back bond issues on the way to raising the $50 million he said was necessary to revive the park into a regional draw.
Had Hart been successful in reopening Kentucky Kingdom, it would have been a windfall for Moseley’s hotel empire including The Crowne Plaza Hotel at 830 Phillips lane, a few hundred yards south of the Kentucky Kingdom property.
Schneider Co. is the the largest Kentucky-based hotel operator, with about 2,000 rooms in the Louisville market. The company owns the 588-room Crowne Plaza and the 1,291-room Galt House downtown, the state’s largest hotel complex.
At its peak, Kentucky Kingdom generated 10,000 hotel room nights each year, according to Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau data.
As his effort unraveled last fall, Hart used several media events to try to gain public support, pressuring state officials to reopen Kentucky Kingdom, which he built into Louisville’s No. 1 tourist destination before the park’s operations were sold to an outside owner. Hart declined to comment for this post.
Moseley is working in seclusion with the Kochs to quietly structure a proposal more palatable to state officials including State Rep. Larry Clark, who worked behind the scenes to kill Hart’s deal, and to Harold Workman, president and CEO of the Kentucky State Fair Board.
By comparison, said sources, the Kochs’ efforts will stay behind-the-scenes until they craft a final proposal.
Just what that proposal will be is something only Koch and Moseley know, say our sources.
One insider said he’s skeptical the Kochs will want to follow Hart’s plan to expand Kentucky Kingdom’s portfolio of rides because the Louisville amusement park is the main competitor for Holiday World. Holiday World is about 80 miles west of Louisville, and about 40 miles east of Evansville.
“When Kentucky Kingdom closed (after the 2009 season), Holiday World’s attendance got an immediate boost. They had their record year, up about 20 percent. Because Louisville is the nearest market, and the biggest,” said the source. “They don’t do much with Indy, and Evansville is their next biggest market.”
Holiday World officials announced a record attendance of about 1.2 million visitors in 2010, up about 14 percent over 2009.
But another source said Moseley is unlikely to back a plan meant only to stop Kentucky Kingdom from competing against Holiday World.
“The rumor is, the Kochs just want the (Kentucky Kingdom) water park. But the Galt (House) people know they’re not going to pick up room nights unless the park is fully upgraded along Ed’s plans,” said one economic development official.
“No one is going to stay overnight at a swimming pool.”
Here’s the back story on Kentucky Kingdom: In 1989, Ed Hart took over the failing Kentucky Kingdom amusement park, which began as an extension of the Kentucky State Fair. At its peak under Hart in 1998, Kentucky Kingdom drew about 1.8 million visitors. Kentucky Kingdom later was sold to Premier Parks, which became the Six Flags Entertainment Corp. chain of amusement parks, based in Grand Prairie, Texas. Six Flags Entertainment went through Chapter 11 reorganization in 2009. In February 2010, Six Flags officials announced they wouldn’t reopen the park after a lease dispute with the Kentucky State Fair Board, which owns much of the property.