Don’t Believe that Santa Claus is Coming to the Kingdom’s Rescue

The Kingdom wil remain closed

The big news yesterday was that the owners of Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind. are talking about taking over the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park.

As Terry Boyd detailed in depth yesterday at Insider Louisville, the fact that Koch family has admitted it is interested doesn’t mean any deal is imminent. The local TV stations who jumped on the story (WAVE even took credit for breaking the story at 7, though Boyd’s piece was published earlier in the day) pushed it to the top of their newscasts.

As attractive a story as anything involving Kentucky Kingdom is, it’s nothing for local officials or roller coaster enthusiasts to get excited about.

But before you start thinking about getting back on the Twisted Sister roller coaster, take a closer look at the story.  The best deal for the state was one it turned down last fall, spurning former operator Ed Hart, who had come up with a $50 million plan to get the park open this spring. That deal seemed to offer the best deal and lowest investment for the state. But the Fair Board, after months of negotiating with Hart, abruptly broke off negotiations. Hart later sued to recover expenses.

Let’s face it – there aren’t many amusement park operators around. And the fact that after at least four months we’re learning that the Fair Board has been talking to the Koch family that owns Holiday World is hardly shocking.  Perhaps it’s more newsworthy to note that after all this time, the most optimistic thing the Koch family could say was this:  This process is still in the fact-finding stage; no decisions have been made by the Kochs whether to further pursue this opportunity.

The Fair Board, along with state and local government officials, all have egg on their faces for failing to get behind Hart’s plan to open the park.  The Koch family won’t save them, and the park isn’t opening anytime soon. And there just aren’t many other operators who could save the park, without a lot of financial help from government.

The Koches may mean well, but they shouldn’t expect a generous deal from Kentucky or Louisville officials, and will have to reach deep into their pockets to come up with the money to get the Louisville amusement park going. They might be better off investing in ads to attract locals to Santa Claus.