‘Bigger, better, greater’: Kentucky Kingdom partnership announced
ladies and gentlemen, we’re gonna go ahead and get started. I’ve gotta help you with a couple of ground rules. First, before we can begin our program, we’ll ask the speakers when they come up to please leave their masks on until they get to the podium, remove them and then put them back on before going back to their seats. Um, all of the speakers this morning, we’re gonna use the same podium. Uh, the one to my right, If you’re in the audience to your left on Duh. As I introduced them, we’ll use that as an opportunity to sanitize that podium between speakers. Also, at the end of the press conference, we, uh we’ll have an opportunity for media to ask general questions. There are two microphones here on either side of the dais. Um, we would ask that when you come up, uh, to use those microphones, please do not touch them. We’ll be watching if, in case you you forget and you adjusted or whatever will need to sanitize it a swell there will be an opportunity not only for those questions, but I’m gonna just take the liberty of volunteering. Those who are on the program today. If you want to catch them and an individual interview or whatever, we can try and accommodate that as well. So with that, we’ll begin our program. Um, it’s an exciting day for Kentucky, and it’s even Mawr exciting for Kentucky tourism. Mike Barry. I’m the secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and today we come together with our partners to celebrate the Commonwealths latest effort to build a stronger Kentucky through economic and tourism development, two things that go very much hand in hand. Now, before I introduce our first speaker, we have some special guests that air in the audience with us today, and I’d like to recognize them. One of my compatriots and the governor’s executive Cabinet secretary Holly McCoy Johnson. Secretary Johnson, if you would wave There she is. Uh, she is the secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet. We’re also pleased to be in the Hall of our host today. The president and CEO of Kentucky venues the Kentucky State Fair Board. David Beck. Thank you, David, for hosting us today. We have with us one of our tourism partners, the president and CEO of Louisville Tourism, the Convention and Visitors Bureau here in Louisville. Karen Williams. We’re also pleased to have with us the investor development manager for G. L I. The Chamber of Commerce of Metro Louisville, Jordan. Clemens Jordan Thank you for being with us today. Through a collaborative effort between Kentucky Kingdom, the Kentucky State Fair Board, the Tourism Arts and Heritage Cabinet and the Finance and Administration Cabinet, Kentucky is established an exciting new partnership that will position the tourism industry and Kentucky Kingdom Park for a long term economic success. Under the leadership of Governor Bashir, Kentucky continues to attract new industries and build partnerships that encourage and that encourage existing companies to grow and expand in the Commonwealth. Today is an example of that leadership and his administration’s unwavering commitment to build a stronger Kentucky through long term relationships that create jobs and generate revenue. The Bashir administration understands the value of tourism, an industry that brings over $11.8 billion in economic impact to the Commonwealth. And here in Louisville, tourism serves as the third largest industry in our community. It is my honor to welcome our governor to share details about this exciting new endeavor for Kentucky. And this will place the Commonwealth on a path for for a brighter future and further strengthen our tourism economy. Ladies and gentlemen, the 63rd governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. Yeah, Okay, a good morning. It is an exciting morning. And the commonwealth. This is one of those days that we haven’t had enough of in the past 11 months and a couple weeks a day where we get up and we can clearly see the future a future beyond this pandemic. I’m excited to be here today in Kentucky venues and their facilities. Let me start by complimenting them on both held this press conference is being held but also in the safe manner that they’re holding events on these premises. Uh, these past months, uh, there is also for anyone who wants to see it. One of the best vaccination, uh, clinics over it. Broadbent in this entire country made the front page of some of the most widely circulated newspapers. And so thank you to Kentucky venues for being such a great host. We’re here today to mark an exciting announcement for Kentucky and Kentucky tourism in spite of the many challenges that we have faced together in our war against Cove in 19. We’ve been careful and purposeful to never stop investing to never stop looking towards the future, knowing that not only is there gonna be a day beyond this pandemic, but that the economy is gonna be different, Which means there is going to be more opportunity, more chances for Kentucky to excel if we’re willing to be bold, to grab onto those opportunities and to make partnerships moving forward. As you’ve heard me say many times, we’re gonna get through this and we’re gonna get through it together. But what we’re gonna do is we’re getting through. It is build a big, bright future where there are so many opportunities for our kids and our kids kids, that this pandemic to them, uh, just becomes another memory. As your governor, My commitment to attracting new business to the Commonwealth while expanding our existing relationships has never wavered. And that is why I am pleased today to announce a new partnership with Georgia based Herschend Family Entertainment, the nation’s largest family owned theme attractions and entertainment company. Her son has it, Yeah, her. She has an impressive history of delivering world class entertainment experiences to its guests at popular tourism attractions like Dollywood Parks and Resorts and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and the Newport Aquarium in northern Kentucky. Every year, Herschend entertains more than 14 million guests at 25 properties in eight states. As we were talking up here earlier, I said, This is the partnership that takes a good foundation, a good attraction and turns it into an international destination to bring people in to see the finest of Kentucky and to spend their time both at the park and in our community. And this company is soon gonna expand its business operations in the Commonwealth as a majority partner and operator of Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay and Amusement and Water Park, located just adjacent to us here at the Fairgrounds in Louisville, this is a 65 acre entertainment campus. Kentucky Kingdom includes a collection of amusement rides and the Hurricane Bay Water Park. Originally opened to the public in 1987. I remember it well because the day before it opened, then Lieutenant Governor Steve Beshear got to bring his two kids to come see the park. I was here the day before it opened, and I’m proud to be here today, and what I think is a transformational announcement that’s gonna help us take it to the next level. Let’s Park is located in a perfect location. The intersection of 65 2 64 make it easily accessible to those that would come from Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Lexington, Nashville in ST Louis. But I think we’re gonna hear Mawr today, uh, later from our mayor about new options to attract people from all over this country. And we hope all over the world persons vision for the entertainment complex will build upon Kentucky Kingdom solid reputation while creating an enhanced guest experience that will delight multiple generations of families. Kentucky’s ability to attract investment from nationally recognized companies like this demonstrates our commitment to building a better Kentucky and shows what a bright future we have ahead of us. This is just an example of the types of titans in the industry that air looking right now at Kentucky are seeing a big bright future. Are seeing our ability to create jobs of the future, are seeing a hungry workforce that can help them reach success and are seeing a state government that wants to partner because we know that good jobs in your company are good jobs for our families. Tourism is an $11.8 billion business in the Commonwealth and the third largest sector in Louisville, generating an annual economic impact of $3.5 billion. Her son is a proven innovator and leader in this industry, and we’re thrilled they recognize the potential that Kentucky has to offer. I think this is the first day of an amazing partnership a partnership between this community, a partnership between the state, a partnership between these two great entities. I think we all see what a special opportunity that this is. And that’s why the state was very active and involved in these negotiations. Uh, I wanna make sure that I thank Steve Wilson, uh, head of our fair board who is right over here for his determination, Uh, in in seeing this deal happen in recognizing the opportunity and in seeing the future. Now we’re gonna defeat this virus, and we’re gonna defeat it this year. I’ll say that again because it feels really good. We’re gonna defeat this virus, and we’re gonna defeat it this year and look at where we are today. In everything we have to look forward to moving forward. It’s a big, bright day for Kentucky. It’s one of those days where we’re truly building the better Kentucky that we all want. And then I want for my family and for yours. Thank you all very much. Yeah, got to make sure I put it on before I walked back. Thank you. Governor Hirsch and Enterprises is a family of companies with a collective goal of bringing families closer together by creating memories worth repeating. E think you’ll hear that phrase many times over the next several months. The company operates popular tourism attractions throughout the nation that collectively entertain more than 14 million guests annually. We’re excited to have her shin CEO Andrew Wexler with us today. Wexler joined Herschend Enterprises in 2007 as chief financial officer, and after eight years of service in this pivotal role he took the helm is chief executive officer in 2015. In 2019, Wexler was named one of Atlanta’s most admired CEOs by The Atlanta Business Chronicle. Let’s give a big Kentucky welcome to our new partner and CEO of Herschend Enterprises. Andrew Wexler. Yeah, yeah. Thank you, Secretary Barry. Thank you, Governor. Procedures were honored to have you here. Join us for the announcement today. It is an exciting moment, and I’m honored to be representing Hirsch and enterprises here. And this is Dork Town. Beautiful town, Louisville. We wanna continue the exceptional 30 year legacy of Kentucky Kingdom. Now, for those of you don’t know her, Shin haven’t had the opportunity to get to know us. We’re small, family owned business. Started in 1950 is a cave tour in the Ozark Mountains, but it’s now known as Silver Dollar City. That cave tour grew into a major regional theme park, and the business grew into one of the, um, major theme park operators in the country. Our signature brands include Dollywood. I mentioned $7 City, we also in the Harlem Globetrotters. So we’re able to bring smiles to people around the world, and we own Kentucky’s own Newport Aquarium. Our purpose as an entity is to bring families closer together. That’s why we exist. And we think Kentucky Kingdom is gonna be a great, uh, location. A great opportunity for us. Thio live our vision. We achieve that vision by creating memories worth repeating now. We acquired Newport Aquarium in 2000 and eight, and one thing that we’ve learned since then is Kentucky is a great state for business. The and we feel blessed to work alongside great partners and the incredible legacy that ad and his partners have created Kentucky Kingdom. But we’re also gonna work alongside the community on our season pass holders and the valued guests because we wanna build an incredible attraction here and the partnership between our two entities here. Kentucky Kingdom is a perfect match from our wholesome family values and the passion to bring joy two of community and families. Another reason we like to grow and expand our business is because we like to evangelize our culture. Our culture is based on love. We call it leading with love, and what that’s about is making sure that we’re taking care of each other, that we have each other’s back and that extends beyond just each other in the company. Our employees is also our guests and the communities in which we serve. It means that we wanna make sure we’re taking care of the people that impact us. The Herschend family wants to be family held forever. Wants this company be family held forever. That’s a long time if I have to worry about it forever, forever. Time horizon. I have to make sure that our business is sustainable, and the only way it could be sustainable is everybody wins. Not just the her shins, not just the employees. Not just a guess, but everybody, the community and all stakeholders. In fact, do you hear a lot of buzz in the press now about stakeholder capitalism? Well, I’ve been blessed. The CEO that I’ve been working for owners that have been doing stakeholder capitalism since the 19 fifties is not just a new buzzword for them. It’s the way they do business. And it’s the way we’ll be doing business here in Louisville. And so we’re excited to be involved with different programs to make sure the community is stronger in that value. So in closing, I just wanna reinforce that were wholeheartedly committed in leveraging our capabilities, our experience to reopen the park in this thing spring. This may, uh, to ensure that it’s the uh continues the high quality. It continues to be the incredible, uh um, park that provides this community with a great place to come together for families to come together. Now, with that in mind, I’d like to invite Craig Ross. Dolly was president for the past 10 years, uh, to the podium. Um, he’s been doing an incredible job for us leading Dollywood on for decades, creating environments and experiences that allow families to come together. Thank you. Okay, thanks. Yeah. Thank you, Mr Wexler. Um, Ed Hart has a long and distinguished career as an entrepreneur with a focus on the successful turnaround of high profile theme parks. Following its reopening in 1990 Kentucky Kingdom, under Hearts guidance became the fastest growing theme park in the country and the number one paid tourist attraction in Kentucky, with attendance increasing from 137,000 to more than 1.2 million in just eight seasons. In recognition of this success, heart received Louisville’s Entrepreneur of the Year award over the years at heart has been committed to ensuring the park was successful and has been a dedicated partner to the tourism industry. Please join me in welcoming Kentucky kingdoms at heart. Uh, Governor, Mayor Thank you so much for being here this morning and putting your stamp of approval on this transaction. We really appreciate it. And you Thank you. Also for flying in and thank you and good morning to you. All the birth and development of Kentucky Kingdom has been my passion since we first opened the park over 30 years ago. And then again eight years ago when we signed a lease with the Kentucky State Fair Board Governor. As you know, your dad, Governor Steve Beshear was instrumental in reopening the park many years ago. So it’s only fitting that you’re here today. Toe Welcome. A new generation of leadership and innovation for Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Beg as the proud founder and CEO of Kentucky Kingdom, It falls on me to ensure that the park is turned over to an organization that can improve and build on our legacy. That organization is Herschend Family Entertainment. Mayor Fisher. It seems like it was yesterday that you stood with me and my partners Ed Glascock, Bruce Lunceford and the Al Jaysh need a company. And Mary Mosley, representing the ash, need a company here with us today as well. You stood with us when we reopened Kentucky Kingdom for a second time. And, frankly, Greg, it’s been quite a grind with co vid surrounding us, and I’ve certainly aged during that period of time. And Greg, I believe you have to Great. I think Andy wants himself to that group. I’d like to extend a special thanks to my partners. They have never wavered in their commitment and financial support for Kentucky Kingdom. Even during co vid, their commitment enabled my team to build the first class facility that attracted the attention off one of the world’s finest theme park operators. But of course, Herschend is much more than a great operator. Their corporate values and culture are a perfect fit for Kentucky Kingdom. There is no doubt in my mind that Hershon will take Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay to the next level. And Mr Mayor, I know that her son will pick up where we left off regarding participation in your Signature Summer Works program, which is so important to the youth of this community. Of course, the support of Kentucky Kingdom is the result of a solid partnership with the state and especially the Kentucky State Fair Board Andrew. I can assure you that David Beck and his team in Kentucky venues will support you 100%. And Chairman Wilson, thank you for seeing this transaction through for me. Personally, I certainly understand that all good things come to an end. It’s been the opportunity enjoy of a lifetime toe lead. Kentucky Kingdom Not once, but twice. That said, I’m very excited and pleased to leave the park in the capable hands of Craig Ross, Kentucky kingdoms, new general manager. Craig and I have worked together over the past several months, and I assure you, and believe me, Craig has the right stuff. I really look forward to seeing the park under Craig’s direction and her shins stewardship reach its full potential. We laid the foundation and we’re so pleased toe watch, church and build upon it. Thank you very much. This should be an exciting next chapter. Craig Ross was recently promoted to the role of chief operating officer of the Hirsch in Growth and Opportunity Group. Craig is a theme park industry veteran, having worked in the industry for his entire professional career. Expanding nearly 40 years. Craig’s experience includes a variety of senior leadership roles, including both property based and corporate positions across the United States. While working for multiple, large and sophisticated theme park operators, including King’s entertainment company, Paramount Parks, Cedar Fair and, of course, Herschend Entertainment. We’re excited to welcome Craig to Kentucky and believe his experience will play a critical role in elevating the park to new found success. Please join me in welcoming Craig Ross. Do you think? Okay, good morning. So good to see everybody appreciate this opportunity to be with you, Jefferson. I think I’ll make my remarks, and then maybe we’ll run the Hirsch in video afterwards. Does that sound good? Um, really Just want to start off by saying what it honor. It is for me personally to have this opportunity to build upon the 30 year legacy that added his partners have created here. And I’ve gotten throughout all of this and the time that we’ve spent together a new, a new friend and a man that I certainly respect and care for. So just really a privilege to be stepping in your shoes Ed and taking everything to the next level, and that’s what we’re here to do. We’re literally here to take a great park located in a great city and make it even better for everyone in this community. And as I was thinking about my comments this morning, I thought, Well, there’s probably a handful of goals that would be nice to express just to talk about what that means for us as we look forward. Um, first of all, number one, we want to transition at excellence. We want to be very thoughtful in how we move ahead. Um, we want to reassure our pass holders. I’m already taking note of all the all the digital and social media that’s going on. What happens to my season pass? Do my benefits Rollover week. I want to reassure all of our season pass holders that all of the plans for 21 remain the same. Your passes air good. And if you haven’t purchased the past, we look forward to seeing you at the park this year that along with all of the benefits that they’ve that they’ve been realizing and that they will realize moving forward, so just really important that we do that. The other one I noticed in social media was cinnamon bread. So we’re gonna have to figure out a way. If any of you have ever visited Dollywood, that’s a really popular food item. So the chatter is already burning up. Will work to find a way to get cinnamon bread into Kentucky Kingdom. Um, but you will see that we will really listen carefully and get to know the market. We’re gonna be asking folks living here and our guests that have visited before and those that have not what they would like to see in improvements and changes at Kentucky Kingdom. And in fact, one of the first things that will do is kick off a very robust five year plan to really lay out for the next five years order all the opportunities and improvements in the different things that we can do to attract more people to this great park. Um, but we’re gonna be hitting the ground running. I looked this morning on the calendar, were down the 10 weeks, and there’s a lot of work that has to happen in a theme park over the course of the winter to get it ready toe open. So thinking about all that work number two goal is to be a really great place to work for really great people. One of the first things that Ed told me is how proud he was of his team and his managers. And I just want to recognize those that air with us here this morning. Our leadership team here to our right, Um, I’m the Onley outsider in the in the room here, these air, all very experienced, talented professional theme park operators. I really look forward to working with each and every one of them and the creating opportunities for them too, because now they’re part of a much bigger organization. Um, talking more about people. It’s really, uh, many parks end up being the first job for hundreds and hundreds of kids every year. Um, and that story actually holds true for me at the age of 15, spending cotton candy at Kings Dominion in Virginia. So we as a company, just have a really great heart for taking talented, hard working people and making really great and strong leaders out of them. So again, I want to echo how important the Summer Works program is and how much we’re gonna work to again build off of the legacy that Ed and his team have accomplished in parents trusting their kids, working at the park and really creating the future leaders of tourism and industry for tomorrow. It’s very important to us also talking about people, and this is something that’s kind of new with her shin being involved. Now we have a team of about 100 folks back in Atlanta that we referred to as are not our corporate office, but as our property support center. And so each of our leaders within each of their individual disciplines will have ah, fleet of folks available to support them, to carry their body of work to the next level. Um, and it’s really worked extremely well for us. We’re able to tap into the talents of folks that otherwise, as a single standalone park are not, are not likely or not feasible. So I really want to welcome to her shin folks to the Louisville market, and you’ll be seeing a lot of them are food. Folks were in yesterday doing food testing was unfortunate. We were planning for today’s meeting and couldn’t taste any of the good food. But we’re already at work leveraging the talents of our of our Herschend folks all along. So for the park, what’s in store for the park? Well, I mentioned the five year plan and we do open in 10 weeks. And so we’ve got a lot of work to do just to get the park open. But we’re gonna goto work immediately to determine where we wanna go with making Kentucky Kingdom Ah, bigger and better and Greater Park and for me, that will fall into a couple of categories. We want to broaden the appeal of the park, and we want to expand the brand. So what does that mean? Extended season would likely broaden the appeal of the park, um, families air spending time a lot differently these days. Think about how you spend your own summer and how time starved you are to fit in that family vacation with all of the other things that are going on. Herschend has learned through the performance of our other properties that families and school calendars and behaviors air all much different. And therefore the fall and Christmas season end up becoming great times to connect families together. So look for us to consider opportunities to expand the season also to broaden the appeal. Folks are living longer and younger kids air almost like little adults at the age of three. And so you’ll see that will be very intentional in the attractions in the new experiences that we bring to bear being very thoughtful about things that families can do together, albeit grandparent’s, all the way down to pre K and the like, Um, thrill rides air really important there, the lifeblood of our business. Um, but rides that families can enjoy together likewise are critically important. Um, shows, live shows and entertainment, uh, in the form of shows themselves, but also it’s festivals and events throughout the year. Look to us to implement those throughout the season. Um, remarkable decor. Anytime we bring a festival in an event onto the park, the food offerings change the retail offerings, change the planning within the park. Um, everything about the park changes during these events. It takes on a whole new life. Um, remarkable culinary experiences, not just culinary, not just cinnamon bread, but many other forms of food. And I don’t know about you, but I love to eat my way through ah theme park, so we’ll be providing plenty of opportunities for fixed to do that. All these things will take the form of the work that will be doing here immediately through our Creative Studios team that’s based in her Herschend design. Designers and developers have already been on property, and we’re beginning to formulate those plans. Um, number four. We really feel it’s critically important to encourage and invite more people to visit not only Kentucky Kingdom, but Louisville and the state of Kentucky. Well, look to form new partnerships and really strengthen the ones that are already in place to bring folks here. Well, actually even have a dedicated tourism, uh, travel tourism marketing plan. Not just one plan, but one that really focuses on how do we draw more new people into the city? We love this market. We love the city and all that it stands for. And so we really look forward to working with everyone in the days to come to build upon those plans, um, and the partnerships and all of that that come along with it, Not to mention how much we appreciate the partnerships and the support that we already enjoy from the community. So in closing the future, is bright. I want to thank you in advance for your support and your warm welcome. I can’t wait to see everyone on the park in your comfortable shoes. And, uh, let’s go ahead and roll the video. This is the highlight reel for Herschend Enterprises. So sit back and enjoy some of the things that I mentioned you may find in the video. Yeah, sure. Yeah, but you had problems. Mhm. Yeah, Yeah. Thank you, Craig. And while that, uh, cinnamon bread sounds like a good idea, don’t be surprised if you get some requests here in Kentucky for bourbon sauce to go over the top of it. Mhm Known as the home of Mohammed Ali, the Kentucky Derby, Louisville Slugger, Baseball, um, maker’s mark and more. Louisville is the largest city in America to be designated as an international compassionate city. Mayor Fisher and his team have been committed to shaping the city of Louisville and the one that prides itself on Southern hospitality and straps to be a city that is welcoming and inclusive to all guests. The expansion of her shin will continue to elevate the city’s reputation as being a top travel destination for families to enjoy. Louisville is known intentionally. I’m sorry. Louisville is known internationally for world class tourism, attraction and events. And we’re excited to work closely with the city and Louisville Tourism to continue to bring opportunities like this to the city. Please join me in welcoming Mayor Greg Fischer. Mhm. Thank you, Mr Secretary. And good morning, everybody. A lot has been set up here today, so I just wanna add my thanks to the Governor, Steve Wilson, Kentucky Fair Board, everybody for getting this done and to Ed Heart and the fellow entrepreneurs that he has pulled together to make this such a dream for so many people over the years. And, uh, this is how it’s supposed to work. You know, when you’re putting something together over decades and you guys have been relentless in terms of making Kentucky Kingdom a place of excellence. But the job of a great leader is to make sure when it’s time for them to leave is to pass it on to somebody else. That’s gonna make it even greater. And that’s what Ed has done with his team here, Ed Glascock and others with teaming up with Herschend. And it’s just wonderful to see a story like this happened, and that’s what good hard work is all about. We’ve We’ve talked about how valuable the kingdom is to our tourism sector here. But this has been so important in another way, because the kingdom is oftentimes the first job for so many of our young people in our community that may not have a connection to get a job somewhere else. Since reopening the park in 2014, Kentucky Kingdom has been one of our biggest employer partners, a signature partner in our Summer Works program. And we put that together so kids could experience the joy of work and what it’s like to get that first paycheck. Everybody remembers that. So, with Kentucky Kingdom leading the way on that, it’s transformed the leadership opportunities for thousands and thousands of kids in our city and to the Hirsen team. I thank you all Craig and Andrew, for your commitment to keeping that going and just a commercial to Louisville’s youth. We got 1200 jobs to fill over here, Okay, so there’s plenty of opportunities. If you’re wondering what you’re gonna be doing this summer, please take a look at the Kentucky Kingdom. Opportunity, uh, to the Hershon team. You know, for me is the mayor when you think about a transaction in a transition of an asset that’s so valuable, like Kentucky thinking it’s a cause for concern, depending on who’s gonna take that. But it said and Craig talk to me about the Hershon. And of course I was very well aware of them, all right? I couldn’t think of a better partner force. Uh, because of the proximity of so many of their attractions that they have and the values that they have as a company are exceptional. How many CEOs of a major company come to the podium and talk about love? Not a lot. Uh, you’re a good man for doing that in this time of strife. Uh, in the world, we should all remember. That’s what we should start with. Love, kindness, compassion. And then all these other differences should be secondary. So I really commend you for that, and I commend her sin on their company value. It’s right there leading with love, being patient, kind, humble, respectful, trusting, unselfish, forgiving, truthful and dedicated. So imagine a world where everybody lived those values things will be going a lot better, but we could never give up on that as well. So we need corporate partners to lead the way and use their pulpits. Thio share those values. Justus. We have being declared an international model city of compassion five years in a row. Her sins also a leader and sustainability never been more important for companies to show that the bottom line and sustainability are complementary. They go hand in hand. So with yesterday’s announcement of the Louisville extreme downtown today, there’s three major economic development announcements happening in the city before noontime. Uh, it gives me great hope. It has been a tough year through the pandemic and other challenges. But to see people coming and announcing their investment in the city of Louisville, we had a great Momenta, Um, until the pandemic hit. But now we’re gonna be one of the first cities to recover as well. And this announcement from Hershon today is a very important step in that journey. So thank you to you guys again. Thank you to you all. And everybody have a great day and stay strong. Louisville. Thank you. Thank you, Mayor. Kentucky Kingdom Open to the public in 1987 following a decision by the Kentucky State Fair Board to build a family amusement park in the Commonwealth. Today, that same fair Board remains committed to ensuring the success of the park and understands the value that the part brings to our tourism and local economies. As chairman of the State Fair Board, Steve Wilson, as well as his fellow board members, uh, some of which are here today David Beck, Karen Williams There may be some others have been committed to ensuring that Kentucky Kingdom is positioned for success by fostering community partnerships that have positioned Louisville to be a premier travel destination. The Kentucky State Fair Board is determined to ensure the Commonwealth entertainment and travel industry continues to grow. Please join me in welcoming Steve Wilson, chairman of the Kentucky State Fair Board. Thank you, Secretary Barry. Governor, I share your comments about the what an exciting day it is today. You know, change is often difficult to think about on Duh. When we first heard about this possible deal, we didn’t know who the buyer Waas and um, we were. Some of us were over taken with that fear of the unknown. And unfortunately, sometimes that always that we start a negotiation or on idea, or we don’t know what’s happening, what might happen. But the moment we found out who the new partner Waas, it was a breath of fresh air. The idea that Dollywood was coming, the people of Dollywood were coming here, the Herschend family. It was such a relief in such an exciting thought about what would happen in the future that we had a unanimous vote yesterday at the fair board meeting to to support this this deal and and toe open open arms toe to the new partner, Kentucky Kingdom. I know I speak for David back and the staff here. We’re really looking forward to working with this new company and to the exciting changes that are being talked about on a zai close the program here. I want to say I don’t think enough can be said for Ed Beck. I’m seeing at heart had, uh, as a fellow entrepreneur, I know that it’s often very difficult to get a new idea off the ground. Um, this Kentucky Kingdom I za wonderful place that Ed had in his mind before. We even knew what it was. Ah, place where families can come and enjoy a time and a place for young people can work as you’ve heard. Um, so I don’t think enough can be said for for that moment that the thought pattern that happens when they had first dreamed of this place and and we’re all looking forward to what it’s going to become. Thank you for all that. So thank you all for coming. We really are looking forward to the future. I’ll turn it back over to you. Secretary Berry. Thank you, Mr Chairman. Her shins decision to expand its operations in the Commonwealth is a reflection of the state’s reputable tourism industry and the commitment of this administration to move Kentucky forward by investing in tourism and economic development. We look forward to being a partner with her shin to promote their vision for a newly re imagined attraction that will create a multi generational experience that visitors across the nation will travel to Kentucky to enjoy. I want to thank Governor Beshear, Mayor Fisher, Herschend executives Ed Hart and his team and the team at Kentucky Kingdom and the hard working professional staff here in Kentucky venues, many of which you are seeing here today for your commitment to the tourism industry here in Kentucky also want to thank our partners in the audience who joined us today to celebrate this exciting expansion and those who will play a critical part of our partnership. As we focus on future success of the park and our economy, your commitment is a sign that success lies ahead for Louisville and Kentucky tourism. Now we’re gonna open up the question the floor for questions from the media. Again. You’re welcome to use these two, uh, microphones here. Um, and we will also have media availability with Herschend representatives and community leaders following the conclusion of this Q and A. It’s anyone wished to take advantage of the Q and a portion we have our first victim. Uh huh. Lexi Rotterman with wdrb e news. I think this was probably a question more so, uh, for Craig as he kind of went through the five year plan. Can you talk a little more about what people may notice more specifically this coming summer? Those pass holders that go every year, you know, will they notice any specific differences this summer or this year that Zaveri Fear and reasonable question. I think with 10 weeks out to go before we open, we’re focused on the opening of the park. I think we’d want to reassure all of our pass holders that what they’ve come to know and expect in their privileges and their experiences that the park will continue to be the case. Um, we are bringing back the Sea Lion Show. There was some debate for that. I know that that’s a big favorite. We’re evaluating other forms of entertainment and some things that we could do to get a little bit of a test. And to get a sense of how guests feel about it, um, we’re gonna go out immediately and start to ask a lot of questions and to get some community, uh, input and feedback. We’ve already had our teams through the property. Uh, one that I’m really proud of is a group that we have of in house designers and developers that we refer to as our creative studio. So they’ve already started to do some work to begin to think about how we could bring the park to the next level and bring it to life. Um, I think that Louisville itself has a lot of great assets that we would want to celebrate. I know that Ed’s done that in the past. A swell. Um, but, you know, this is the fun part, Honestly, but given the fact that we we, uh, about 10 weeks before we open in a few few months that we’ve been working on this, we’re just really, really ready to g o to get that done. And we’ve got a lot of good people working on it, and I look forward to getting a lot of good feedback from folks, but we’ll move as quickly as we possibly can. Thio start to demonstrate that new things to see and do in our business are the lifeblood of this. And so that’s critical. And that’s not at all lost on us or in terms of how we approach. All of our properties were thinking of and introducing new things all the time. And that’s where I get all the joy from this from a just working and playing with it, like designing your own home. So we look forward to that work on another question. While you’re still up there. Mr. Ross? Uh, Kentucky Kingdom. We’ve talked a lot about those seasonal jobs. Those kids in high school. I I grew up here. Had a lot of friends who had those same jobs. Um, but for those who aren’t seasonal, those full time employees management positions are those likely going thio? Are those people likely going to stay where they are? I know there were a lot of talks of layoffs and things over the pandemic. Yes, a very near, uh, near on. We reorganized slightly, but for the most part, were intact with exactly the same group of folks that we had before. Uh, they know the park. They know what they do extremely well. Um ah. Good number of them have will be receiving, um, promotions within the role that they have. Their areas of responsibility will align a little bit differently so that they can connect well with their, uh, counterpart with with her shin. So they’ll have someone at her shin in Atlanta to help support them in their role. Uh, the biggest thing about all of that for me is the opportunity to progress within the organization. This is this will be my seventh stop in my career. And each and every time I’ve had a chance to go to a different property and being a different role, I’ve had the opportunity to re, uh, re engineer myself, recreate myself and grow and develop even further. So we’re really big. We’re really big on that. The ratio of leaders to employees is about 1 to 10. So, out of every 10 folks, we’re looking to create that leadership opportunity for everybody. The door is wide open with all that we have going on for that likewise for other folks to come into the community and be part of our team here, too. Thank you. Yes, Thank you. Other questions? Yes, sir. I’m gonna keep you up there to actually, I was gonna piggyback off of that question. And just what can people expect as faras? Obviously we’re still in the pandemic. And then the change in leadership is well, will this Will there be anything kind of pending the pandemic or what does this reopening? Maybe looking like while planning as a new company during a pandemic. So we’re gonna follow the same plan that Ed and his team implemented. My understanding is they work directly with the governor’s office to advance and lead that plan. Uh, in this line of business on it gets set often, but I can’t over emphasize it enough. Safety is the very most important thing that we do. And so if moms do not trust and we don’t build the trust in the community of safety, that’s critical. So we will do everything that we need to do to get through the pandemic. I look out every day from my window with the office of the park, and I’m watching the vaccinations go along, and I think the the word is positive. We plan to open on May 8th. That’s a couple of weeks later than normal, just in some consideration of the timing that we did that, uh, but we’ll continue to do the things We have a very sophisticated safety group that will complement the very sophisticated safety group that’s here in Kentucky Kingdom to make sure that we’re doing all of the standard things in the protocols. I think part of life in all of this, and the challenge has been getting outdoors and moving around and being with friends is also part of a healthy life, a swell. And I think we feel like we can We can do both. Well, we can protect folks from code, but also allow them to get out and spend time together. Thank you. Question here. Yes. And we’ll probably keep him up there one more time. Uh, as’s faras marketing wise for Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay. I think the name Kentucky Kingdom has obviously been a point of pride for people here in Louisville and in Kentucky. Um, there’s been a few names up there. Um, can they expect any type of name change either now or in the years to come from your guys end? Well, I think that the name is an awesome name. Uh, both the Commonwealth name and the word kingdom and Hurricane Bayas. Well, they’re all great names. If something were to surface throughout our process and the research, you know, we would consider those things. Uh, but I would like to think about it as we’ll bring more names to the equation. You’ll be you’ll be hearing Maura about Kentucky. Kentucky kingdoms knew this or Kentucky Kingdoms knew that. Um, you know, again, the park enjoys a really great reputation. If you go out and look at what guests say about their visit here, uh, they have good things to say Herschend. And we’re really proud of ours, too. We watch that very closely to ensure that we’re leading. And we are a leading group. In terms of that, we have very high standards will work with with the folks in the park to honor the name, and they continue Thio do that. But, um, I really feel like the more important thing that we do is tell our story to more people and encourage more people to visit Kentucky Kingdom for what they know that it is and that it offers. And secondly, uh, could we expect mawr trips from the Harlem Globetrotter to Freedom Hall? Well, I have to turn to this one over here and ask him about that. But as soon as things are able to support that activity, they’re raring to go. And, uh, you know, I can’t blame you for wanting to see them because they’re awesome. Just awesome. We’re proud to have in part of the company, so I got Thank you. Yes, sir. Thank you. I had another question for I don’t think his governor Beshear still here for someone from? No, he had a white house. Covic Task force called. No problem. What? Maybe someone with Kentucky Kingdom can answer this. But it was, um were there any other offers or other deals? Did Hershon come to the table on this or and what would have been the alternative? You know, I know. Obviously, the state is spending a lot of money on co vid. What would have been the alternative? Has this deal not going through? When we finished, our monetization here will let at heart answer that question. Thank you. Uh, there’s very, very few owner operator parks left in North America. So we were approached by a number of other operators. National operators, uh, enquiring over the last couple of years about purchasing Kentucky Kingdom. Uh, and we considered some of those, but you have to make sure as I mentioned in my comments, you have tow pass the baton on to somebody you really believe could build on your legacy. So although we had those offers, I reached out to her shit is a matter of fact. Our general counsel had a relationship with her shins. general counsel because they’re both on the number of the industry legal roundtables. And when our general counsel called her shins general counsel, they passed it on to Andrew almost immediately. 24 hours later, I’m on the phone with Andrew, who clearly was showing interest. And then, literally one or two days later, Craig came down the last weekend in September and reviewed the park while we had guests. So I knew right away their reputation was sound. But I knew right away that their interest and just the way Craig walked through the park, the questions he asked, I knew that was the right deal. And from there we began the negotiations. My last thing was just talked about going into the community to get feedback. What can people expect? As far as a lot of people are going to see this and want to maybe way in, are you gonna be at churches, schools hold feedback? Will it be online? So I will be out into the community and we will look to the digital, uh, bloggers and the other platforms that we have. There are a number of them available to us that we will do I’m accustomed to do in season pass holder focus groups. We also set up a mom’s board is, ah, best practice that we’ve used in the past to get feedbacks from mom’s. Um, well, actually, conduct some very in depth research that will be done professionally, uh, to get all of that feedback and, you know, kind of my number. One way to get it is to stand at the front gate not so much in the morning, but at the end of the day to see how to see how their day waas and just sort of stand and greet and greet folks. But thank you for that question. Because we do want folks to offer that feedback. And I know folks are anxious to hear, you know, what are we gonna change and what will be different? And for 21 that all stays the same with pass holders and all that. It’s important to get that word out, but also that will be reaching out to talk to our guest to understand what they think theon pertinent ease are here for us. So absolutely. Thank you so much. We have one more question. Yeah, I got one for Ed. Um, just you talked a little bit about the timetable. Just curious how long this was in the works. And why did now why was now a good time toe just sell and bringing a new buyer? Yeah, that’s a very good question. The last year was a very difficult season. Of course, we only operated behalf our season, and we fulfilled all our obligations financially, and my partners and I have been very fortunate in life that, you know, we’re pretty well heeled, and we can put whatever money is necessary to keep the park going. But I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re sort of up there in age. All of us are a bit long in the tooth. And I had to stand back and say, You know, I’m concerned about three things. One, I’m concerned about the legacy of the park. Make sure it continues to grow. It hasn’t even remotely reached its full potential. Uh, this park has done almost 1.4 million people and a normal circumstances. We do about 800,000 now, what we were building and we got hit with a couple of very wet summers and then cove it. So to put the right resource is into the park to keep it going and to make sure our legacy is fulfilled, I said, You know, maybe now is the time to try to get the right partner. And the second consideration after legacy was to make sure this young team of professional managers that we’ve nurtured over the last eight years, the directors and senior managers, they were seasonal team members eight years ago, and I’m so proud of their back here now. I’m so proud how they grew in their responsibilities, and we wanted to make sure my partner’s myself, that they were with the right company to make sure they had the full opportunity of growth and to excel in their chosen careers and then third was to get a fair deal. It was It was the least important of the three criteria. I’m Andrew might have taken advantage of that. I’m not quite sure, but we were very pleased with the financial piece of This is Well, um and those are the three criteria established and shared with my partners, and they wholeheartedly concurred. I think that answers your question. Okay, cap. Well, with that, we will wrap up this portion of the press conference. As I mentioned, um, our speakers will be here if you would like to engage them individually. We encourage everybody to stay healthy. Stay hopeful. And we look forward to seeing all of you either splashing in Hurricane Bay or on a coaster in Kentucky Kingdom. Thank you very much. Have a great day.
‘Bigger, better, greater’: Kentucky Kingdom partnership announced
Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay are getting a new operator — one that already runs other popular U.S. attractions.Herschend Enterprises, the state-owned park’s new majority partner, describes itself as the nation’s “largest family-owned themed attractions corporation.” It operates Tennessee’s Dollywood and the Newport Aquarium in Northern Kentucky, and they even own the Harlem Globetrotters. The announcement of new leadership was made Tuesday morning at the Kentucky Expo Center. “This is a partnership that takes a good foundation, a good attraction, and turns it into an international destination,” Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday. The company’s CEO Andrew Wexler said Herschend first saw the potential in Kentucky after taking over Newport Aquarium in 2008.Ed Hart, the founder of Kentucky Kingdom, spoke as he readies to pass the torch to Herschend. He said the company is the perfect fit because of its values. “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,” Hart said The new operators assured pass holders not to worry about arrangements already made for 2021. Those passes and privileges will be honored, Herschend officials said.When asked if there would be any big, noticeable changes at the park this year under new leadership, Herschend officials said that they want to evaluate the potential for additions.“We do open in 10 weeks, so we’ve got a lot of work to do just to get the park open,” said Craig Ross, the chief operating officer for an arm of Herschend Enterprises. “But, 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.” A big focus, Ross said, would be expansions of the parks’ season. Ross said that they also want to add “experiences” that attract younger and older crowds.”Thrill rides are really important,” said Ross. “They’re the lifeblood of our business, but rides that families can enjoy together, likewise, are critically important.”Kentucky Kingdom, which has been operating for more than 30 years, has faced some struggles in the past. It went bankrupt after its first season, and again in 2009, which closed the park for five years.The park was able to open some of the season during the pandemic with COVID-19 safety measures.
Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay are getting a new operator — one that already runs other popular U.S. attractions.
Herschend Enterprises, the state-owned park’s new majority partner, describes itself as the nation’s “largest family-owned themed attractions corporation.”
It operates Tennessee’s Dollywood and the Newport Aquarium in Northern Kentucky, and they even own the Harlem Globetrotters.
The announcement of new leadership was made Tuesday morning at the Kentucky Expo Center.
“This is a partnership that takes a good foundation, a good attraction, and turns it into an international destination,” Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday.
The company’s CEO Andrew Wexler said Herschend first saw the potential in Kentucky after taking over Newport Aquarium in 2008.
Ed Hart, the founder of Kentucky Kingdom, spoke as he readies to pass the torch to Herschend. He said the company is the perfect fit because of its values.
“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,” Hart said
The new operators assured pass holders not to worry about arrangements already made for 2021. Those passes and privileges will be honored, Herschend officials said.
When asked if there would be any big, noticeable changes at the park this year under new leadership, Herschend officials said that they want to evaluate the potential for additions.
“We do open in 10 weeks, so we’ve got a lot of work to do just to get the park open,” said Craig Ross, the chief operating officer for an arm of Herschend Enterprises. “But, 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.”
A big focus, Ross said, would be expansions of the parks’ season.
Ross said that they also want to add “experiences” that attract younger and older crowds.
“Thrill rides are really important,” said Ross. “They’re the lifeblood of our business, but rides that families can enjoy together, likewise, are critically important.”
Kentucky Kingdom, which has been operating for more than 30 years, has faced some struggles in the past. It went bankrupt after its first season, and again in 2009, which closed the park for five years.
The park was able to open some of the season during the pandemic with COVID-19 safety measures.