When I was young I lived in Louisville, KY. I remember visiting the State Fair when I was at a very early age and seeing the soaring coasters of Kentucky Kingdom behind the fair’s midway. That’s where my love of coasters started.
Here’s the brief history of Kentucky Kingdom:
- 1987 – Kentucky Kingdom opens as an expansion of the State Fair. The park barely makes it through the season, and thus closes before it ends.
- 1989 – Ed Hart and a group of other investors purchase the park along with brand new rides.
- 1990 – Kentucky Kingdom reopens with two coasters and multiple flat rides. The park was very successful that year and was able to keep on operating.
- 1992 – The Hurricane Bay water park opens, which became one of the highlights of the park.
- 1997 – The huge Bolliger & Mabillard stand-up coaster “Chang” opens. It breaks several world records and becomes the lead coaster of the park. The park also surpassed Churchill Downs, historically the biggest tourist attraction in Louisville, in attendance.
- Late 1997 – Premier Parks purchases Kentucky Kingdom for $64 million. Premier Parks soon merges with Six Flags.
- 1998 – The park is opened as Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.
- 1999 – “Vampire”, a Vekoma Boomerang, is removed after multiple problems with the ride getting stuck on one of the hills, and in one situation, inside the cobra roll.
- 2007 – Hurricane Bay is changed to Six Flags Splashwater Kingdom, like many other Six Flags in-park water parks.
- Summer 2007 – “Superman: Tower of Power”, originally “Hellivator”, is removed after the infamous cable snap that resulted in a 13 year-old girl losing her feet. The park’s attendance plummets and criticism of the park soars.
- 2008 – A large section of the park including the world’s first dueling coasters, “Twisted Twins”, is closed without reason for the entire season. It remains closed through 2009.
- 2009 – Chang is removed for a water park expansion, sending shocks through both the enthusiast community and the general public. Many wonder if the park can survive.
- February 4, 2010 – Six Flags announces that they could not reach a lease agreement with the Kentucky State Fair board. The park would close and some rides will be sent to other Six Flags parks.
I started visiting the park when I was about six or seven years old. It wasn’t necessarily all that clean in some places. Some things looked like they had seen better days. I wouldn’t call it a wasteland, but it wasn’t fantastic. Most of the coasters, except Chang, were extremely rough. I did not spend most of my time riding the coasters. They were so awful that after one ride, that was all you could take.
The only part of the park that shined was Hurricane Bay. Hurricane Bay is where I spent the most time. This was not a dinky little in-park water park. This was a full-blown water park. The wave pool was simply massive. The tree house was huge. The kiddie area was not just a simple wading pool, but a whole area with slides and other fun features. The lazy river was long and peaceful. The slide tower had plummeting slides with great speed. Hurricane Bay is what saved the park from the wrecking ball earlier. There were still some very nice sections of the park. The area around Thunder Run was particularly nice. There were lots of trees and it didn’t feel like you were on a former parking lot. It’s a shame the rest of the park couldn’t be like this. If the park actually felt like a park, it could have been such an enjoyable place to go, even when it was 100 outside.
My last visit to the park was in 2004. It was the year they added “Tornado”, a ProSlide funnel water slide. The park was getting worse since I last visited in 2002. Many things were falling apart and had seen better days. The kid’s section of the park looked awful. The foam ball play area was pure dirt. I would not want my child playing in that dust pen. The coasters were worse than ever. Kentucky Kingdom was not the park I remembered.
Does this shock me that the park has closed now? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s a good move? In some ways, yes. Many know how Kentucky Kingdom has been a burden on Six Flags the last couple of years. No chain wants to have to deal with a park like Kentucky Kingdom when they’re battling bankruptcy. The fact of the matter was Kentucky Kingdom could not be save with a few improvements here and there. The whole park would need tens of millions invested. If the park would of stayed open, we would have probably seen the Amusement Park drizzle away into just the Water Park. That’s where the visitors go. They don’t have any reason to spend their time in an Amusement Park where all the rides give you bruises.
Before I close this, I want to say a thank you to Kentucky Kingdom for you’re the reason I got into coasters. You gave me enjoyment throughout the summers I lived in Louisville, and it will be sad that I can’t make a return home to you. I don’t want the entire park to be remember as the park built on a parking lot, so I leave you with this picture that captures one of the better spots in the park…