LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Six Flags Inc. announced Thursday it would close its Kentucky theme park because of a lease dispute, making Kentucky Kingdom the sole property to be shut down as the company restructures under bankruptcy protection.
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The remaining 13 other Six Flags parks in the U.S. are not affected by the move, the New York-based company said in a news release.
Six Flags said it had "proposed a new lease arrangement" to the Kentucky Fair Board, which owns the property where the 59-acre park sits. But the board rejected the proposal, the company said.
A spokesman for Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson said, however, that the city was still hopeful a new lease could be negotiated.
"Kentucky Kingdom is too important of an institution and employs too many people to have our city lose it," said Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Abramson. "We're hopeful that it's not a done deal."
However, Kentucky Kingdom spokeswoman Carolyn McLean said all 55 employees of Kentucky Kingdom were told Thursday the park would close.
"I love their optimism," she said of the city. "It's the word that we got today. I mean, what can we say?"
Kentucky Kingdom employed about 1,000 summertime seasonal workers, mostly teenagers, in addition to the full-time staff, McLean said. She said it was the largest employer of teens in the state.
The company plans to relocate employees as well as several of the more than 40 rides and attractions to its other parks, McLean said.
Six Flags is the world's largest regional theme park company with 19 parks across the United States, Mexico and Canada, according to the news release. In 1998 it took over Kentucky Kingdom, the state's largest theme park, comprised of amusement park rides as well as a water park.
Six Flags has been in bankruptcy protection since June, burdened by high debt and declining park attendance.
Last year, lawyers for Kentucky Kingdom and the family of a Louisville teenager whose feet were severed when a ride malfunctioned agreed on a settlement that would provide lifetime care for the young girl.
Kaitlyn Lasitter was 13 when a cable on the ride snapped in June 2007, cutting off her feet. Doctors were able to reattach her right foot but not her left one, and some of her left leg was amputated.
The family had sued the park, claiming it failed to maintain the Superman Tower of Power ride and equipment and to ensure riders' safety. The ride, which ascended several stories before dropping riders at speeds of more than 50 mph, was later dismantled.
Six Flags reported $457 million in total revenue for the quarter ending Sept. 30, a 7 percent decrease from the same quarter the previous year. Attendance for the quarter was 12 million, down 1 percent from 2008 the company said in a financial statement on its Web site.
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