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Originally posted: 3/6/2005

Last updated: 3/6/2005

 

 
 Taft/KECO/Paramount Parks

  By Chris Cowan
 
 
themeparks@insightbb.com 

Taft Broadcasting information is in green.  Kings Entertainment Company (KECO) info is in purple.  Paramount Parks information is in black.
 


Pre-1967:

Taft Broadcasting is incorporated in Cincinnati, Ohio, as an owner/operator of TV and radio stations.
 


1967:

Taft purchases Hanna-Barbera Productions.


1969:

Taft purchases the Coney Island amusement park located in downtown Cincinnati.  Three things caused the company to seek out a new location for the park: 

    o  The park had grown about as much as it could—there was no more available room to expand.

   o  Its downtown location was situated very close to the Ohio river, causing the park to have frequent flooding issues.

   o  Fess Parker (TV’s Davey Crockett) was attempting to gather investors for a new theme park to be built in nearby Northern Kentucky.


1970:

Taft purchases 1600 acres of land in Kings Mill, OH (about 30 miles northeast of Cincinnati) for $3.2 million and announces plans to build a new park.


1971:

Taft holds a “Name the new park” contest and a young girl’s entry of Kings Island is selected (combining “Kings” from Kings Mill, the new location of the park and “Island” from Coney Island).

Many of Coney Island’s rides are moved to the new park at the end of the season. 


1972:

Kings Island opens.


1973:

Family Leisure Centers, a joint venture formed by Taft Broadcasting and Top Value Enterprises, begins construction on Kings Dominion, a new park in Doswell, VA.  Park layout will be very similar to Kings Island, but smaller by about one third.


1974:

Kings Dominion’s Lion Country Safari area opens as a preview to the park.


1975:

Kings Dominion opens.

Taft purchases Carowinds, a theme park located near Charlotte, NC.


1979:

Construction begins on Canada’s Wonderland near Toronto.  Taft Broadcasting is an investor is this park, owning approximately 20%.


1980:

Family Leisure Centers is dissolved and Taft Broadcasting becomes the sole owner of Kings Dominion.


1981:

Canada’s Wonderland opens.

Taft purchases Ruby-Spears Productions, a studio founded in 1977 by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, two former Hanna-Barbera employees.


1984:

Taft opens Hanna-Barbera Land near Houston, TX.  It’s a theme park dedicated exclusively to children.

Senior executives of Taft’s Amusement Park Group, along with several park managers, purchase the theme park division and form Kings Entertainment Company (KECO).  They are given a never-ending license to continue using Hanna-Barbera characters at all of the current parks.


1985:

The Marriott hotel chain decides to sell their two Great America theme parks (in Gurnee, IL and Santa Clara, CA).  Six Flags agrees to purchase the Gurnee park, but is not interested in its California sister park.  When Marriott signs an agreement to sell the second park to a real estate developer, the city of Santa Clara steps in to it.  They purchase Great America and hire KECO to manage the park.

Australia’s Wonderland opens near Sydney in December.


1988:

Taft Broadcasting becomes Great American Broadcasting.


1989:

KECO exercises its option to buy Great America.  The land itself still belongs to the city of Santa Clara, but they give KECO a 50-year lease.  Hanna-Barbera licensing does not apply to this park.


1990:

Great American Broadcasting files for bankruptcy.


1991:

Turner Broadcasting buys Great American Broadcasting’s production and distribution division, which includes Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears.

Great American Broadcasting’s last remaining division, consisting of the TV and radio stations, is renamed Citicasters, which then merges with Clear Channel Communications.


1992:

The original Kings Entertainment Company partners sell KECO to financier Carl Lindner.

Paramount Communications purchases KECO from Lindner and forms a new division, Paramount Parks.  Australia’s Wonderland is not part of this deal and is sold to a group of Australian investors.


1993:

Canada’s Wonderland, Carowinds, Great America, Kings Dominion and Kings Island are all re-branded as Paramount parks.


1994:

Viacom Inc. purchases Paramount.


1997:

Australia’s Wonderland is purchased by Leisure Theme Parks Sunway Group and the park is renamed Wonderland Sydney.


2004:

Wonderland Sydney closes on 4/26.

On 7/29, Paramount announces plans to jointly develop a new 85-acre theme park in Fukuoka, Japan with Japan Trade, Inc. and Gateway Entertainment Group.  Target opening date is 2010.

 



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