|Slogan||All That Matters Is The Thrill|
|Location||Louisville, Kentucky, United States|
|Owner||Kentucky State Fair Board and Ed Hart|
|Operated by||Kentucky Kingdom, LLLP|
|Opened||May 23, 1987|
|Previous names||Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom|
|Area||63 acres (25 ha)|
Kentucky Kingdom (formerly known as Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom) is an amusement park in Louisville, Kentucky. The 63-acre (25 ha) park includes a collection of amusement rides and a water park named Hurricane Bay. The park reopened to the public on May 24, 2014.
Kentucky Kingdom opened on May 23, 1987, leasing 10 acres (4.0 ha) at the Kentucky Exposition Center property. The park was started by out-of-state Texas investors as an extension of the Kentucky State Fair. One of the original rides was a roller coaster named Starchaser. The park also had other rides such as bumper cars and a log flume. However, the 10 acre park closed and filed for bankruptcy after only one season. Most of the contractors and vendors were unpaid and most of the rides were auctioned off to other parks. Only a few rides stayed at the park. The park had four themed areas called "Carousel Plaza," "Old Louisville," "Kentucky Frontier," and "The Enchanted Forest." The latter was a kiddie area which would later become "King Louie's Playground" and then "Looney Tunes Movie Town."
The park remained closed through 1989 after the rights to operate it were purchased by Ed Hart and a group of investors. Hart's first step was paying the 227 vendors and contractors that were unpaid before. Kentucky Kingdom reopened for the 1990 season with the new operators and management team. Despite the Starchaser being sold it had remained on-site at the amusement park allowing Hart to purchase it back. Additionally, new rides were added including Bluebeard's Bounty, The Enterprise, Whirling Dervish (later renamed Breakdance), and The Vampire roller coaster. The Tin Lizzies antique car ride reused the same track as the former car ride, Pontiac's Tin Lizzy Junction, while new antique cars were added in 1995 which were formerly used at Opryland USA in Tennessee.
In 1992, the Kentucky Kingdom made a large expansion and opened the Hurricane Bay water park along with the 150-foot-tall Giant Wheel. The following year a new slide complex opened in Hurricane Bay featuring four different slides. In 1994, the park opened Mile High Falls, the then world's tallest shoot-the-chute water ride. The children's roller coaster Roller Skater was also added that year. In 1995, T3 (formerly T2: Terror to the Second Power) was added. The ride was the first of its kind on the continent and the second only in the world, with the other being Condor at Walibi Holland in the Netherlands. Also in 1995, Hellevator, a 177-foot-tall Intamin drop tower was added just in time for the park's annual Halloween event. In 1996, the upcharge attraction, Top Eliminator Dragsters opened.
In 1997, the park made its biggest investment yet with the addition of Chang, a stand up Bolliger & Mabillard coaster that set the world records for stand up coasters in height, drop, length, speed, and number of inversions. Thrill Karts (also known as Kingdom Go Carts) were also added this year, but were an upcharge attraction.
In late 1997, Ed Hart sold the rights to operate the park to Premier Parks, which would then merge and eventually become Six Flags just months later. Ed Hart and Themeparks, LLC, had begun on planning a $5 million dueling wooden roller coaster to be named Double Trouble prior to the sell to Premier Parks. Once Premier took over operations, the decision was made to change the name of the new coaster from Double Trouble to "Twisted Sisters". Twisted Sisters officially opened to the public on June 21, 1998.
Through the 1990-1998 seasons the park was said to be one of the fastest growing amusement parks in the United States.
Rides added to the park during the Ed Hart years include Thunder Run (wooden roller coaster), The Quake, T2 (Terror to the Second Power), Twisted Twins (Twisted Sisters), Mile High Falls, Top Eliminator Dragsters, Chang (stand up roller coaster), Hellevator (Drop Tower), Roller Skater Kids coaster, Chaos, and Kingdom Go Carts.
At the end of 1997, the rights to operate Kentucky Kingdom were sold to Premier Parks for $64 million. At the time, Kentucky Kingdom was one of the main tourism attractions for Louisville, receiving more visitors than Churchill Downs. On April 1, 1998, Premier Parks purchased Six Flags from Time Warner, and as such, on June 21, 1998, Kentucky Kingdom became known as Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Also on June 21, 1998, Twisted Twins (then called Twisted Sisters) a wooden dueling roller coaster, officially opened to the public. Six Flags then transformed King Louie's Playground into Looney Tunes Movie Town and added the Batman Stunt Show Spectacular in 1999. It became the ninth amusement park to use the Six Flags name.
In 1999, Six Flags planned to re-theme one side of the park as Gotham City by renaming and repainting several rides. Chang was to have been rethemed and renamed to Riddler's Revenge, the same name as the stand up coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain, and T2 was to have been rethemed and renamed to Batman: The Ride, to be more relatable to other Six Flags parks. T2's gift shop began selling Batman: The Ride merchandise and the ride was even referred to as such in the 1999 Park Guide. Later that year, the idea was shelved and the rides retained their original names despite many of them having a different coat of paint. The Penguin's Blizzard River (later renamed Raging Rapids River Ride) was the only part of the plan that went into full effect. Six Flags had previously received many pumps and mechanisms for a rapids ride from Premier Parks, which had previously bought the parts from Opryland USA. The parts were from Grizzly River Rampage, a rapids ride, that closed along with Opryland in 1997.
In 1999, the Vampire roller coaster was removed due to several malfunctions that had occurred earlier in the season. The ride would later reopen as Flashback at Six Flags New England in 2000. Originally, Six Flags planned for an extensive expansion to the park so it could compete with other rival parks in the area, notably Kings Island in Mason, Ohio. The plan called for two new roller coasters in the Vampire's old location after its removal. These plans were dropped when Six Flags then decided to place the two coasters at their recently rebranded Six Flags Ohio (Geauga Lake) park. The two coasters planned were Batman: Knight Flight (now Dominator (roller coaster) at Kings Dominion in Virginia), and Superman: Ultimate Escape (now Possessed (roller coaster) at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Pennsylvania). To fill the vacant space, Six Flags purchased Road Runner Express, a wild mouse coaster, and Skycoaster in 2001.
In 2002, the Twisted Sisters roller coaster was forced to be renamed to Twisted Twins upon the threat of a lawsuit from the band Twisted Sister. In 2003, Kentucky Kingdom opened Greezed Lighting, a shuttle loop roller coaster formerly located at Six Flags Over Georgia as Viper and before that as Tidal Wave at Six Flags Great America. It was named after another shuttle loop coaster in the chain called Greezed Lighting at the now defunct Six Flags Astroworld in Houston, Texas. The Quake was removed in 2004 because of malfunctions and was replaced by the Tornado water attraction in 2005. In 2007, Hurricane Bay was renamed to Six Flags Splashwater Kingdom and Deluge, the first water coaster attraction in North America opened. Also, the Hellevator drop tower was renamed and rethemed to Superman: Tower of Power just in time for opening day 2007. However, the rethemed ride's life at the park would soon end.
On June 21, 2007, an accident occurred on the Superman: Tower of Power drop tower which resulted in a 13-year-old girl having her leg amputated after a cable fracture occurred on the ride. The ride was removed in 2008 after the girl's family sued the park over the accident. The park originally was to replace the ride with a new attraction for the 2008 season, but this never occurred. Instead, Mega Wedgie, a new water slide, was added to Splashwater Kingdom in 2008. Due to major debt by owner Six Flags, the entire Northwest section of the park, which included Twisted Twins, Mile High Falls, and the Zeppelin spinning blimp ride, was completely closed for the remainder of Six Flags' operation of the park (which lasted to early 2010).
On September 21, 2009, Kentucky Kingdom confirmed that the park's main attraction Chang was being removed for the addition of Bonzai Beach, a new water park region with a separate theme from the existing Splashwater Kingdom. Bonzai Beach would have opened in the 2011 season to coincide with Six Flags' 50th anniversary that year. The park closed for the season on November 1, 2009, with the intention of reopening for the 2010 season.
Amid a corporate bankruptcy, on February 4, 2010, Six Flags announced the park would cease operations immediately due to the rejection of an amended lease by the Kentucky State Fair Board. This left the fair board and Six Flags to negotiate the ownership of rides and attractions. On July 25, 2010, this dispute was settled with Six Flags receiving a ride of their choice (Road Runner Express), and $2.8 million in lease related payments owed by Six Flags were forgiven in exchange for Six Flags' property rights (which included the offices, furniture, fixtures and equipment relating to the park, and all intellectual property). The Kentucky State Fair Board also used $2.35 million from Ed Hart to purchase Six Flags' 20-acre (8.1 ha) stake in the park. Six Flags removed all of the Looney Tunes and DC Comics/Batman related content from the park along with inner tubes, overhead shades from rides, and some parts from rides to use at its other parks.
Six Flags added rides during its 10-year operation of the park. These rides were Road Runner Express, Greezed Lightnin' (shuttle launch coaster), Sky Coaster, Sling Shot, Tornado (water ride), Deluge (water roller coaster) and Mega Wedgie (water bowl). However, Six Flags would then remove Road Runner Express as a ride of their choice after negotiating with the Kentucky State Fair Board for several months, along with the Sky Coaster as Six Flags had leased the ride and the owner had decided to take the ride elsewhere. Greezed Lightnin' remained at the park until July 2013, when Ed Hart and Themeparks, LLC, had it removed due to it being beyond repair and refurbishing it would have costed more than what the ride was actually worth.
In May 2010, the former operator of Kentucky Kingdom, Ed Hart, along with several other investors formed the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company. Their aim was to reopen the park by Memorial Day Weekend the year after funding and their plans were approved. After 16 months trying to get funding approved, the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company announced on September 30, 2011, that the fair board had ended negotiations and that their company would no longer take part in reopening the park. On November 4, 2011, Ed Hart sued the state of Kentucky in an attempt to recoup $1.4 million that he claimed had been spent as part of the failed effort to reopen the amusement park.
On January 16, 2012, the owners of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana, announced they were involved in talks about the future of Kentucky Kingdom. Their media release stated they were in a fact-finding stage and hadn't made any decisions about whether to move forward in pursuing an opportunity to run the theme park. On February 7, 2012, four members of the Koch family, who also own Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, formed a new company, Bluegrass Boardwalk, Incorporated, to negotiate a lease agreement with the Kentucky State Fair Board and to apply for economic development incentives from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. On February 23, 2012, the Kentucky Fair Board approved a lease agreement for the former Kentucky Kingdom property to the Koch family. It was announced that Kentucky Kingdom would be renamed Bluegrass Boardwalk, would reopen on May 11, 2013, and employ 25 full-time and 800 seasonal workers.
However, later that month the plans began to unravel. On May 30, 2012, it was confirmed that the park would not reopen in 2013. On June 15, 2012, it was announced that the Koch family would not reopen the park at all, with Bluegrass Boardwalk CEO Natalie Koch stating that "many layers of governmental regulations and stipulations ultimately caused them to withdraw." Afterwards, former operator Ed Hart, before his return several months later, criticized the Koch family for using Kentucky Kingdom as an opportunity to help Holiday World continue to strive without nearby competition to possibly harm its business. The Kochs, however, later disputed these comments.
On August 15, 2012, it was announced that Ed Hart and the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company would begin work to reopen the park in 2014. On October 22, 2012, Hart said the company planned to invest $120 million, using $50 million to reopen the park and investing another $70 million over the term of the lease. All rides were slated to reopen with the exception of Greezed Lightnin', which was too costly to repair and reopen. The company also planned to add a $15 million roller coaster, install three new rides, and double the size of the Hurricane Bay water park. The planned expansion would be the largest in the park's history.
In January 2013, the Kentucky Fair Board granted preliminary approval for a lease and the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority (KTDFA) approved government incentives in support of reopening the park, placing Ed Hart and his investors in charge of park operations. The scheduled opening date was announced as May 24, 2014. On March 25, 2013, Hart specified that it would take more money than previously anticipated to rebuild and expand the park. The investment plan previously approved under the terms of the lease consisted of $20 million in partner equity and $25 million in borrowed money. The city planned to provide subsidies and tax incentives up to $200,000 per year for the first five years and $100,000 per year for following five years. Hart was able to secure $28.5 million in financing and proprietors would be under contract obligation to invest at least $1 million per year on park upgrades. On April 10, 2013, the KTDFA approved up to $10 million in sales tax rebates over the next 10 years for Kentucky Kingdom.
Construction began in July 2013. The park added a new $7 million, Chance Rides roller coaster, named Lightning Run, three new children's rides in King Louie's Playland (previously Looney Tunes Movie Town), a new drop tower named FearFall (a replacement for the park's former drop ride, Superman: Tower of Power), a new flat ride named Professor John's Flying Machines, and several new attractions in the Hurricane Bay Water Park. Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay reopened on May 24, 2014.
The reopening was a success. After the first month Kentucky Kingdom sold over 100,000 season passes. Kentucky Kingdom announced plans to open a renovated amphitheater and roller coaster T3 (formerly known as T2) in 2015. On September 25, 2014, Cyclos and Skycatcher were announced for 2015, along with three refurbished attractions: Enterprise, Raging Rapids River Ride, and T3. On January 16, 2015, Kentucky Kingdom announced the park would add three other rides, calling the total group of eight new rides the Kingdom Eight. Added were Up Up and Away, Flutterfly and The Wizard of Oz.
On July 20, 2015, Kentucky Kingdom officials announced that the park would be adding their fifth roller coaster, Storm Chaser, for the 2016 season. Storm Chaser is a Rocky Mountain Construction roller coaster which will use part of Twisted Twins' existing structure, which has sat standing but not operating since the end of the 2007 season. Storm Chaser opened to the public in May 2016.
For the 2017 season Kentucky Kingdom announced Eye of the Storm, a high-speed flat ride with a seven-story loop, continuous rotations and inversions, and forward and backward motions. Thunder Run, meanwhile, received a new train as well as modifications to its track at a cost of about $500,000. The train replaced the original Thunder Run train first put into service in 1990 and provided a smoother and faster ride. Other planned upgrades to the park included the installation of more shade at Hurricane Bay water park and ride waiting lines throughout the park, additional locker room space and upgraded air conditioning in the park's restroom and dining areas. Their was also more tables, chairs and benches and smoother, quicker season pass process processing and in-person purchases through technology improvements. Additional improvements will consist of more ticket windows, a new entrance to Hurricane Bay and more children's rides.
|Thunder Run||1990||Dinn Corporation||A wooden roller coaster, designed by Curtis D. Summers and John Fetterman. Known as a classic wooden roller coaster made by the Dinn Corporation.|
|Roller Skater||1994||Vekoma||A junior roller coaster, with roller skate shaped cars. A Vekoma Roller Skater roller coaster.|
|T3||1995||Vekoma||A suspended looping coaster. Opened as T2, the first of its kind in North America and second of its kind in the world. The ride has been refurbished and renamed T3. T3 finally reopened on July 3, 2015.|
|Lightning Run||2014||Chance Rides||A steel roller coaster. It is the first Chance Rides Hyper GT-X Coaster in the world.|
|Storm Chaser||2016||Rocky Mountain Construction||A steel roller coaster, reconstructed from components of the former Twisted Twins dueling roller coaster, and a new iBox track from Rocky Mountain Construction.
Other rides and attractions
King Louie's Playground
Two major incidents occurred at the park that resulted in serious injury. The rides involved in the incidents were Starchaser (in 1994) and Superman: Tower of Power (in 2007). Both incidents resulted in the rides being closed and removed from the park.