Ed Hart purchased the park in 1989 and led Kentucky Kingdom to what was reportedly the fastest growing amusement parks in the United States through the 1997 season. Usurping the iconic Churchill Downs in visitors by 1997, it was one of the top attractions in Kentucky. Premier Parks purchased it in 1997 and went on to acquire Six Flags, re-branding the park to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in 1998.
Through a period of decline under the new ownership, Kentucky Kingdom didn’t open in 2010. By 2012, Mr. Hart renegotiated deals and purchased the closed park vowing to reopen it by 2014. He demonstrated his success with amusement parks and successfully reopened Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay in the spring of 2014.
All around there are signs of the successful efforts to revitalize the park, breathing new life into former neglected areas with shade for the hot summer seasons and plenty of areas to take a break from the crowds that are flocking into Kentucky Kingdom.
One highlight of Kentucky Kingdom is Bella Musica, a replica of a classic carousel not found in most amusement parks. It includes two mini carousels that spin inside the main carousel as well as 42 hand-carved moving animals.
The included water park, Hurricane Bay, includes a large summertime getaway from the heat with a large array of activities from gentle family friendly water attractions to exciting slides, and even a thrilling hydromagnetic rocketslide water coaster.
For us thrill seekers, there is also plenty to do with a nice lineup and ever-growing selection of roller coasters. For the safety of all, Kentucky Kingdom is strict about allowing loose articles. Like their signs say, don’t turn your smart phone into a not so smart phone.
Much to my surprise, the new roller coaster for 2014, Lightning Run, is a true gem. Despite larger, more expensive coasters that I have experienced, this 2,500 foot long Chance coaster with a mere 100 foot drop packs a punch that is incessant until the final brake run is reached.
Who would imagine that a sleek coaster of this caliber could be built for a mere $7 million. Its popularity indicated by the long line is testament to that fact.
Another true gem is the wooden coaster, Thunder Road. Built in 1990 by Dinn Corporation, this woodie provides coaster lovers the classic feel of a wooden coaster with many of the elements we love as it flies through the course.
Despite standing dormant for years, Ed Hart’s exception team has revitalized this ride and allowing you to throw your hands in the air experiencing tons of speed and air time through its 2,850 foot circuit. I promise you won’t get beaten silly on this one.
Opening a scant week before our visit, the newly renovated Vekoma suspended looping coaster (SLC), T3, looked regal with its fresh paint. In true SLC style, this coaster is not for the feint of heart although the new restraints make it more bearable.
When you are ready for a break from the heat and excitement, there are numerous air conditioned restaurants serving the almost usual amusement park fare. We did find some exceptions, however, with the great basil pesto pizza at Swampwater Jack’s.
Mr Hart’s demonstrated ability to turn around amusement parks is evident throughout the entire 63 acres of Kentucky Kingdom. As long as his expert team remain at the helm, I see a long and bright future for this park. You are sure to enjoy your visit and I recommend at least stopping by on your way through Louisville, even if you don’t hang around town for its famous Hot Brown, Derby Pie, or Benedictine.