Six Flags Rejects Lease – Kentucky Kingdom to Close?

On February 4, Six Flags announced it would walk away from it’s Kentucky Kingdom lease and no longer operate the park.  Permanent employees are being offered positions at other Six Flags parks. [http://www.sixflags.com/national/footerNav/news_kentuckykingdom.aspx]

Six Flags announced today that as it nears the scheduled end of its restructuring process, it has decided to reject its lease with the Kentucky State Fair Board relating to the Kentucky Kingdom park. In recent weeks, Six Flags had proposed a new lease arrangement to the fair board that would have enhanced the viability and future of the park. Unfortunately, those proposals were not accepted and the park will cease operations and the company will move expeditiously to re-locate employees and several of the more than 40 rides and attractions to one of its 13 other markets.

“We are deeply disappointed to be leaving such a great fan base in the greater metropolitan area of Louisville and we are grateful to the thousands of employees at Kentucky Kingdom and the millions of guests for their dedication, support and loyalty over the years,” said Mark Shapiro, Six Flags President and CEO.

“This action relates solely to Kentucky Kingdom,” Shapiro continued. “The substantial lease payment has been a significant hurdle for this park in recent years. Our other parks, which reside largely on company-owned land, will be completely unaffected and will open as scheduled for the full 2010 season.”

Harold Workman responded (President & CEO of the Kentucky State Fair) [http://www.kyfairexpo.org/pdfs/Harold%20Workman%20Statement%20re%20information%20released%20by%20Six%20Flags%20Ky%20Kingdom%202-4-10.pdf]

“Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom announced this evening that, as it nears the scheduled end of its restructuring process, it has decided to reject its lease with the Kentucky State Fair Board relating to the Kentucky Kingdom Park. In recent weeks, Six Flags had proposed a new lease arrangement to the fair board that would have enhanced the viability and future of the park. Unfortunately, those proposals were not accepted and the park will cease operations and the company will move expeditiously to re-locate employees and several of the more than 40 rides and attractions to one of its 13 other markets.”

The statement misrepresents what has taken place.

Approximately thirty days ago, the Kentucky State Fair Board (KSFB) reached out to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom (SFKK) to offer to extend the park‟s bankruptcy court-imposed deadline of January 9, 2010 to either accept or reject its lease with the KSFB. The KSFB initiated dialogue with SFKK in an attempt to allow the park to maintain its operations. However, SFKK did not schedule a meeting with me until January 4, 2010, only days before the bankruptcy court-imposed deadline. At that point the KSFB did not have any financial information regarding the profitability of the park and only obtained that information a few days ago.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and city officials had this to say [http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20100205/BUSINESS/2050349/Six+Flags+sought+to+pay+for+park+only+if+it+made+money]

While holding out hope for a last-minute turnaround, Louisville officials said Friday that Six Flags appears intent on closing Kentucky Kingdom — weeks after asking for a deal in which it would pay for use of the park grounds only if it turned a profit.

Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro told reporters Thursday night that the bankrupt company’s decision to close the Kentucky park was final and that the announcement was not an effort to squeeze better terms out of the state fair board.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson said that’s also the message Shapiro gave him in a conversation on Friday morning.

During a press conference Friday, the mayor said there is nothing the city or state can do to prevent the closing.

“All I can say is that the bankruptcy court is where this issue is going to be resolved. It’s a judicial matter,” he said. “Really at this point it is beyond the direction of city and state government.”

Other operators have approached the fairgrounds about operating the park, but no decisions will be made till after the bankruptcy Judge rules in early March. [http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20100210/NEWS01/2100389/Fair+board+may+seek+new+amusement+park+operator]