Dollywood, Silver Dollar City Operator Taking Over Kentucky Kingdom
This morning, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced that Kentucky Kingdom is officially under new management. Last week, Kentucky Kingdom teased a social media post using the hashtag “#ANewStory” that sent the internet into a frenzy. After many thought the post was for a new attraction, we dissected it down to Kentucky Kingdom being acquired. Today, officials have announced a new vision for the park.
In a press conference this morning at the Kentucky Expo Center, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced that the park is officially under new management, as Georgia-based Herschend Family Entertainment has become a majority partner and operator of Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay.
What You Need To Know:
- Herschend Enterprises has become a majority partner and operator of Kentucky Kingdom and Hurrican Bay
- Herschend owns and operates several other theme parks and entertainment centers such as the Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, and Newport Aquarium
- Negotiations with Herschend Enterprises began last year for the sale of ownership interest in Kentucky Kingdom, LLLP
- Herschend is bringing Craig Ross, Dollywood’s president for the past 10 years, to serve as the park’s interim general manager
- Season passes already sold for the 2021 season will be honored as well as all other existing arrangements with customers.
Kentucky Kingdom will be the fourth amusement park under the Herschend umbrella, joining Dollywood in Tennessee, Silver Dollar City in Missouri, and Wild Adventures in Georgia. Herschend operates a number of other attractions, including water parks, aquariums, dinner shows and lodging. They’re also the owner of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Although a specific price and terms of the deal were not disclosed, officials with Herschend Family Entertainment, the new majority owner of Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay, said they plan to take the Louisville theme park “to next level.”
“Herschend is a proven innovator and leader in the tourism industry, and we are delighted that they recognize the potential Kentucky has to offer and have committed to expanding their operations in the commonwealth,” Governor Beshear said.
Craig Ross will serve as Kentucky Kingdom’s interim General Manager. Ross recently served as President of Dollywood, where the park surpassed Disneyland and was named TripAdvisor and USA Today’s ‘Best Theme Parks in the World.’
“We’re going to go to work immediately to determine where we want to go with making Kentucky Kingdom a bigger and better and greater park,” said Herschend’s Craig Ross, who runs Dollywood and will become the general manager of Kentucky Kingdom.
Ross was not specific about the parks five year plan, but he stressed that guests would barely notice any changes in the 2021 operations. In fact, season passes already sold for the 2021 season, which starts May 8, will be honored as well as all other existing arrangements with customers.
Ross also commented that his team “will find a way” to get the iconic cinnamon bread of Dollywood into Kentucky Kingdom after seeing several comments on social media.
Originally founded in 1987 by Ed Hart, Kentucky Kingdom was sold to Six Flags before the national operator abandoned it in 2009. Hart resurrected the park in 2013 by putting together an investment group that includes Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford, attorney Ed Glasscock and the hotel owner Al J. Schneider Co. The group completed its $43 million reinvestment plan and reopened the park in 2014.
Herschend has been reorganizing their company over the last few months, while considering potential acquisitions. The restructure of Herschend executives creates the perfect platform to add Kentucky Kingdom into their umbrella of parks.
In the video below, Kentucky Kingdom’s founder, President, and CEO Ed Hart explains exactly why it was the right time for the transaction to be made and why Herschend was the best fit to take over the park.
“For me personally, I certainly understand that all good things come to end. It’s been the opportunity and joy of a lifetime to lead Kentucky Kingdom — not once, but twice. We are pleased to turn the park over to a new generation of leadership. Herschend is an outstanding operator, who will undoubtedly take Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay to the next level. We expect their involvement will add greatly to the Commonwealth’s thriving tourism industry,” said Kentucky Kingdom’s founder, President, and CEO Ed Hart.
Kentucky Kingdom is currently accepting applications to fill 1,200 job openings for the upcoming season.
The one hour press conference can be seen in its entirety below.
For more information, visit the official Kentucky Kingdom website by clicking here.
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