Louisville’s Kentucky Kingdom will become part of the theme park chain that owns Dollywood and Silver Dollar City. 

The park is set to host a press conference Tuesday morning about an “exciting new partnership.” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will be in attendance. 

While the release does not name the park’s buyer, WDRB-TV reported that the company assuming Kentucky Kingdom’s lease on state-owned property uses an address matching that of Herschend Family Entertainment. Two Kentucky state boards have also signed off on the deal. 

Numerous websites that report on theme park rumors, such as Screamscape, have also said in recent weeks that Herschend’s purchase of the park was imminent. 

Herschend’s other properties include Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. The company’s portfolio also includes the Harlem Globetrotters and aquariums in Kentucky and New Jersey. It also runs attractions inside Georgia’s Stone Mountain park — called “the largest shrine to white supremacy in the history of the world” by the NAACP — but the company will reportedly end its operations there in July 2022. 

Once operated by Six Flags, Kentucky Kingdom was closed in 2010 amid Six Flags’ bankruptcy. It then sat unused until reopening in 2014 under a new ownership group, which spent $43 million to renovate the park.  

Former Disney Imagineer Joe Rhode to work with Virgin Galactic

Joe Rohde, the mastermind behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a new job at Virgin Galactic, the commercial spacecraft company aiming to send tourists into space. 

The legendary Imagineer left the Walt Disney Company after 40 years at the end of 2020. At Virgin Galactic, his title will be “experience architect.” In the press release announcing his hire, Rohde referred to his past as an Imagineer. 

“This means I’ve come from a tradition where if you are imagining something, you are imagining that thing is going to be made real,” he said. “That’s also been going on here at Virgin Galactic, and I’m delighted to be joining at this incredible moment in time when it is about to blossom into public awareness.”

Virgin Galactic’s CEO is Michael Colgazier, who previously served as president of Disneyland Resort. In a statement, Colgazier said or Rohde, “Joe has a methodology that is unique, inspired, and truly effective. His track record for keeping authenticity central to the design and creating deeply transformative experiences aligns perfectly with our mission. I couldn’t be more pleased to see Joe choose Virgin Galactic for his first encore!’’

Theme park industry asks for more help from Congress 

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) released a report Monday saying it has been “devastated” by the COVID-19 pandemic, and calling on help at the state and federal level to stem further job losses. 

The report, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, said employment in the attractions industry was 35 percent lower in July 2020 compared to the same month in 2019, amounting to approximately 165,000 lost jobs. 

IAAPA vice president John Hallenbeck used the report to ask Congress to provide additional relief funds for the industry.

 “This should include additional PPP funding, extension of the employee retention tax credit through 2021, and financial aid to state and local governments to allow for the creation of grant and loan programs specific to our industry and liability protection for businesses that can safely reopen,” Hallenbeck said. “And I encourage elected officials to continue to work on reopening businesses in their states. Safety has always been the attractions industry’s number-one priority. That will never change. Parks and attractions are ready to reopen responsibly and can do so with guidance and regional support.”

IAAPA had called for federal aid for theme parks earlier in the pandemic. The organization also canceled its annual convention in 2020 due to COVID-19.

More Theme Park News:
Six Flags announces 2021 reopening dates, but some depend on states’ approval
What Cedar Point has planned for 2021
Disney World parks, SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove pass county COVID-19 inspections