Sat June 16, 2012
Q&A With Bluegrass Boardwalk's Natalie Koch
Bluegrass Boardwalk Incorporated announced Friday it would not reopen the former Kentucky Kingdom amusement park, which has been closed since 2009.
In February, the Koch family, which also owns Holiday World park in Indiana, formed the Bluegrass Boardwalk group to reopen the park in 2013. Last month the group announced it would have to delay reopening until 2014, citing poor maintenance of the park. Now all plans have been scrapped and the Kochs say their business model does not pair well with so much government oversight.
Bluegrass Boardwalk CEO Natalie Koch spoke with WFPL about the decision to abandon the project.
What specific government regulations were against the family model?
Well, it’s not necessarily government regulations. What I would say is, the government was following their rules and regulations that they have to use and I understand that, but the longer the process went on the more we realized it was outside of our model. Because waiting long times, sometimes we need to make snap decisions and that wasn’t going to be possible working with the government.
We certainly appreciate everything the government did for us. We were very impressed with the fair board and the mayors office, but in the end we like to control a few more things and it was apparent that we were not going to be able to make snap decisions and do things the way that we do them here at Holiday World.
Was there a moment when you realized that? Because you were approved for state tax incentives just a couple days ago.
That's correct, yes, and we’re very appreciative of that. That was fantastic and we did have our finances in place, everything was in place. We had a discussion going on with our board members and we were undecided. We decided it should be a unanimous decision and not a majority decision because it's such a big project. And we were still negotiating thinking we were going to go ahead. But the board in the end decided unanimously that it was time to call it quits so we didn’t waste the state or Metro Louisville's time.
When did the board make that decision?
How many board members are there?
There are four.
How many board members did not want to go through with it?
I’m not going to go into specifics about how many board members were in favor or how many weren’t. We wanted a unanimous decision to go or not to go.
Does the fact of being approved for $3.9 million dollars for tax incentives have any role in your decision?
We were really pleased with the incentives that we got both from the state tourism department and the Louisville Metro Council. It was more just the fact that we’re concerned that we’re not going to be able to make snap decisions like we can here, because we’re in control of the land, we’re in control of the property and there we’re not. We have to seek approval for doing certain things, that was really more of the issue.
And then also that there’s a lot of uncertainty when you’re dealing with the government.The government changes frequently based on elections. And with Mr. [Harold] Workman leaving we were concerned that we wouldn’t know who we would be dealing with in the future and we had such a great relationship with the fair board thus far that is was a little bit scary to think in the future that it might not be a good relationship. And we might not be able to do things in a snap judgment time like we’re use to here.
Did Mr. Workman leaving have a role in the decision?
It had a part, yes, because it led to some of the uncertainty that we were not comfortable with.
Do you have another park in mind for reopening?
I don’t think in the immediate future we’re going to pursue any other options. We’re just going to stay here and focus on this (Holiday World). We certainly wish the next operators of Bluegrass Boardwalk the best and we’d be happy to share any information we have that could help.