Koch Parks purchases Alabama water park

From local sources

Members of the Koch family, the family known for operating Holiday World & Spalshin’ Safari, announced Thursday it has acquired Alabama’s Splash Adventure Waterpark with plans to re-open the park in May.

Dan Koch, who was involved in litigation regarding ownership of Holiday World but retains 40 percent ownership in the Santa Claus amusement park, led the purchase of the water park near Birmingham, Ala.
Dan and his sister Natalie Koch are on the front page of the park’s website. Lori Koch, the widow of Dan’s brother Will, who died in 2010, owns 60 percent of Holiday World and is not linked to the family’s purchase of Alabama’s Splash Adventure. Holiday World spokesman Paula Werne said Holiday World is not involved in or connected to the purchase of the park in Alabama. Holiday World is owned by Koch Development Corp.

“We wish them a safe and successful future,” Werne said.

Koch Parks Inc. purchased the Alabama water park and 89 acres. The previous ownership company is retaining 150 nearby acres and has discussed building an indoor water park and hotel on the land.

Included in the plans for the 2014 summer season at Alabama’s Splash Adventure are a few Holiday World trademarks: free sun screen, free parking, free in-park Wi-Fi and free access to inner tubes.
The park also says it will open five new attractions for children when the summer season begins May 17. Additional expansion is reportedly being developed.

Per a press release, Dan Koch says he is living in Alabama. He previously worked for his law firm, Koch Parafinczuk & Wolf, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“I am thrilled to be living and working in the community,” he said. “Our family wants Alabama’s Splash Adventure Waterpark to be the No. 1 choice for family fun and family memories for generations to come.”

Alabama’s Splash Land formerly included a section with rides, but aerial photos show that many of the rides have been removed. Two roller coasters remain. The park was previously called VisionLand and was bought out of bankruptcy for $5.25 million in 2003. It was built in 1998.

This isn’t the Koch family’s first venture into a new park. In 2012, four members of the family formed Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc. and reached a tentative agreement with the Kentucky State Fair Board to operate the former Kentucky Kingdom amusement and water park. The hope was to re-open the park, which closed in 2010 when Six Flags rejected a proposed lease with the state fair board as the company was restructuring under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But the plan ended in June 2012 when the group abandoned the project. Bluegrass Boardwalk Inc. said it withdrew because of government regulations and stipulations.

Bluegrass Boardwalk CEO Natalie Koch said at the time the family had long wanted to operate a second park and that she and her partners determined leasing a park instead of owning it would not fit their business model.

At Holiday World, the Indiana Supreme Court declined last month to hear the legal dispute involving Lori and Dan.

Will, Dan and their sister, Natalie, were the park’s primary stakeholders. Natalie sold her stake in Holiday World to her brothers in November 2009, making Will majority owner at 60 percent. Dan owns 40 percent.

After Will Koch died at 48 of a suspected diabetic attack at the family’s Santa Claus home in June 2010, Dan Koch brought forth a purchase agreement stating that if one brother should die, the other would purchase his shares. He offered Lori Koch $26.8 million, or $542 per share, a figure based on a formula in the 2002 shareholders agreement. Lori Koch contends the stock is worth more — about $32.4 million, or $653 per share. Lori Koch refused Dan Koch’s efforts to purchase the stock, stating that although he had an obligation to buy, she had no obligation to sell.

Dan Koch threatened to sue his sister-in-law. He was then fired as the park’s interim president and removed from the company board. Lori Koch filed a lawsuit, claiming Dan underestimated the shares’ value; the lawsuit also objected the $1 million salary raise Dan wanted to give himself as interim president.

In October 2013, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in a 3-0 decision that Lori Koch can retain her majority shares of Koch Development Co., which owns and operates Holiday World. The outcome affirms a ruling handed down by Judge Carl Heldt in Vanderburgh Circuit Court that Lori Koch did not have to sell shares formerly owned by her late husband.

Last month, the Indiana Supreme Court decided it will not hear the case, effectively upholding the Court of Appeals’ decision.

Holiday World has been operated by the Koch family dating to when the amusement park opened as Santa Claus Land nearly 70 years ago. The Spencer County park, which changed its name to Holiday World in 1984, flourished while being run by Louis J. Koch, his son Bill and later his grandson, Will.

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