Tax credits sought for Bluegrass Boardwalk theme park
The developers seeking to reopen Kentucky Kingdom as Bluegrass Boardwalk are moving foward with financing plans, including filing a preliminary application for state incentives and talking to Louisville about local assistance.“The process is moving forward, just not as quickly as we’d expected,” said Paula Werne, spokeswoman for the Koch family, the operators of Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Ind.
The Kentucky State Fair Board, which owns the former Kentucky Kingdom property at the Kentucky Exposition Center, approved a preliminary lease in February for the Kochs to take over the amusement park, which last operated in fall 2009.
“We’re not quite where we’d like to be, yet — but we’re still plugging away,” Werne said. “It is our goal to open Bluegrass Boardwalk in just over a year. We’ve met with a number of ride vendors and are eager to push the button on some exciting new additions for the park.”
Werne said members of the company that the Kochs formed to pursue the Bluegrass Boardwalk venture were not available for comment. They include Dan Koch, chief executive officer of Holiday World, and three other family members.
Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, confirmed that the Kochs filed more information Monday on a preliminary application for tourism tax credits. He said the cabinet’s policy is not to divulge details of preliminary applications that have not been acted on by the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.
Lawson said that, under state law, applicants of projects designed to promote tourism development can be eligible to recover up to 25 percent of their investment over 10 years, through a rebate of state sales taxes generated by the project.
Lawson said that after the authority gives an application preliminary approval, a study is required to make sure the project meets all the requirements of state law, including generating a threshold level of sales taxes. After reviewing the study, the authority will then be in a position to consider final approval, Lawson said.
Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, said the Kochs and the city are discussing possible financial incentives the city might provide for the remaking of the theme park. Poynter said the city is discussing a rebate of a portion of the occupational taxes that would be withheld from park employee paychecks.
“We will do whatever we can to get the park open. It is important for tourism, for summer jobs for teenagers and for convention business,” Poynter said.
The Kochs have said they plan to invest $15 million to $20 million in reopening the fairgrounds park. They expect to employ about 800 seasonal workers and around 25 full-time staff.
The tentative lease is subject to final approval by the state Finance and Administration Cabinet. The initial lease would be for 50 years, with two 25-year renewal options. The Kochs are to pay a base rent of $400,000 to the fair board in 2013, with annual increases thereafter.