Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 9:30 am
A Louisville man who wants to purchase a Cave City attraction received a $250,000 loan from the state Tuesday.
The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority approved a $250,000 loan from the Kentucky Tourism Development Loan Program to Land of Tomorrow Productions by a 3-0 vote. Land of Tomorrow Productions is the Louisville-based entity involved in the purchase of Cave City’s Guntown Mountain.
Will Russell, proprietor of WHY Louisville and founder of Lebowski Fest, was the applicant contact for the loan, according to the application obtained by the Daily News. Russell, who intends to turn Guntown Mountain into Funtown Mountain, said he was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.
It is a 15-year loan at 6 percent, said Gil Lawson, executive director of the office of communications at the KTDFA. “The loan does not go through until after they close on the property,” Lawson said.
Russell said the closing date is set for March 31.
Representatives from Land of Tomorrow Productions presented the proposal for Funtown Mountain to the KTDFA, of which four of the board’s seven members were present. The board went into closed session to discuss confidential financial information, Lawson said. Three of the four members voted – the chairman does not vote unless there is a tie.
All financial information, including source of equity, was redacted from the application. Certain amounts in inventory valuation from WHY Louisville Inc. and equity against a house in Louisville are listed on the application as collateral offered for the project.
The market value of the property before liens was established Jan. 27 as $1 million, according to the application. Guntown Mountain includes more than a dozen buildings on 28 acres.
The proposed timeline of the project begins with a groundbreaking April 1 and a gradual opening of other operations between June and the end of the year, including a gift shop, cafe, Haunted Hotel, putt-putt, saloon, museum and road completion according to the application. A grand opening is proposed for June 1, 2016.
Upon closing, “Land of Tomorrow Productions LLC will be the names lessee on the existing lease to the 28 acres divided in three tracts until 2049,” according to the application. The lease is still under negotiation, and “intended agreement may involve a sublease for Hillbilly Tea Shack in the space next to the gift shop with 5-10 year term with a revenue sharing with Land of Tomorrow Productions,” according to the application.
Tourco Inc. is the current licensee of Guntown Mountain. JB Enterprises of Cave City owns all 100 shares of stock of Tourco Inc.
Russell’s plans for the longtime roadside attraction include a new zipline and a new sound system and lights in the Lucky Lady Saloon. Russell also wants to turn the Opera House into a theater with hologram capabilities that would allow him to project performances of musicians, comedians and actors onto the stage. Russell has plans for a pop culture museum on the property that would include a prop from the film “Big Trouble in Little China” and a wax figure wearing Col. Harland Sanders’ trademark white suit.
Russell intends to replace the cowboys and gunfights from Guntown Mountain with clowns as part of the Funtown Mountain image.
“The missions of Funtown Mountain are to bring jobs and commerce to Cave City, elevate the reputation of Kentucky and offer affordable amusements for families,” according to the application.
Other than WHY Louisville and Lebowski Fest, Russell has attempted other attraction events. Pee Wee Over Louisville, founded in 2012, was meant to be an event that celebrated the Paul Reubens character Pee-Wee Herman. The event was canceled and was never affiliated with Reubens, according to the event’s Facebook page, which has 4,056 Likes. An article on Today.com and in The Courier-Journal in 2013 that was linked from the Facebook page states that Russell received a cease and desist letter from Reubens requesting that the event be canceled.
Russell also had plans to build an attraction called Kentucky Rushmore, which was conceived as a fake mountain with the faces of famous Kentuckians on it, according to the Kentucky Rushmore Facebook page. The mountain didn’t come to fruition, but a mural of Kentucky Rushmore – with the faces of Muhammad Ali, Abraham Lincoln, Sanders and Secretariat – is painted on the side of WHY Louisville’s building.
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