In early 2005, my wife, Cheryl, and I had a dream for South Central Kansas families. The dream was to build a family theme park in Park City Kansas, 4 miles north of Wichita. The focus would be on the family. We wanted to create a wonderful place where families could come and enjoy themselves, free of today's normal pressures. A theme park of this magnitude had never been built before in Kansas.
We spent many hours in prayer over this dream and consulted many industry leaders, friends and confidants before committing to see this dream come to pass. After making the decision to proceed, we commissioned an economic study by a major California consulting firm to verify that the idea was viable. Throughout 2005 and 2006, we traveled worldwide, meeting with industry leaders and major financing groups. They verified to us that our idea seemed viable and promising. Local and national corporations would also make their commitment to the idea of a theme park in Kansas.
By 2006, all major financing was in place. Banks and financing groups from throughout Kansas and around the world committed to the Wichita and greater South Central Kansas area as Wild West World began to take shape from a flat Kansas wheat field. To make the dream of Wild West World come to pass, we mortgaged our home, ranch and the land where we operate our 8 year old business, the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper. We also invested millions of dollars in personal cash savings. Nearly every dollar and every asset we owned was pledged to bring to pass our dream of a family theme park in Kansas.
Throughout 2005, 2006 and 2007 we often worked 20 hours a day, sometimes sleeping in the office at the park at night. We did not take a paycheck from Wild West World, nor did we take a development fee. And we had no time off and no letup from the daily pressures for 3 years.
On May 1st 2007 we opened Wild West World to the media, just as we had promised, even though we did it in the rain. On May 5th the public was invited to Wild West World's Grand Opening just as promised…but again the rain would pour down. On Grand Opening Day the community wasn't in a theme park mood. The entire State was in shock as a result of the catastrophic Greensburg tornado the night before that wiped a nearby community literally off the map.
And as we all know the rain continued in May and June. Over the course of May, June and early July 2007, almost 50 days would experience rain, storms or overcast days. Independence Day, July 4th, ended in torrential rains. Flooding covered Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas throughout June and early July. We built the park as we said, but the weather and lack of cash flow have made it impossible for us to keep it open. It pains us to reach this point, but we have to close the park and find a buyer who can reopen and run it. We hate to do it, but we don't see any other alternative.
On July 9th, Wild West World, LLC filed a voluntary Chapter 11 corporate bankruptcy primarily due to the extremely poor attendance and lack of cash flow caused by the continual rain and storms, and unanticipated cost overruns in constructing the park. Every effort has been made to pay our employees in full for work to date. We will eventually list thousands of creditors in our bankruptcy schedules that will be filed with the Bankruptcy Court within the next couple of weeks. These creditors will range from banks that are owed millions of dollars; ride manufacturers who are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars; vendors who supplied food and other merchandise to the park, and season ticket holders who paid $50 for their season passes, just to mention a few categories.
Because of the possibility that conflicting claims may be asserted against our personal as well as corporate assets that have been pledged as collateral to our numerous creditors, our company's bankruptcy attorneys have instructed us to save further comments to the papers that will be filed with the bankruptcy court and our testimony that may be required in bankruptcy court proceedings.
I wish to assure you that we are focused on finding a corporate buyer for Wild West World, a buyer with deeper pockets. Discussions are currently ongoing with the hope of finding a buyer who would purchase Wild West World and reopen this great park as soon as possible. No timeline is available at this time. Without a buyer, Wild West World Theme Park will not reopen. But no matter what, we will press on…for Wild West World represented to the Etheredge family literally their entire heart and soul…it represented a Kansas dream.
I realize some of you may have some follow-up questions about the status of our situation. But, this is too emotional a time for me and Cheryl to elaborate further on the events that led up to today's bankruptcy filing.
Right now, the most important thing for everyone involved is for me to find a buyer who can reopen Wild West World as soon as possible and that is just what I intend to do.
Wild West World, LLC
Park City, Kansas