Temperature checks required, masks encouraged: Kentucky Kingdom theme park welcomes back guests
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Red markers placed 6 feet from one another were visible throughout Kentucky Kingdom on Monday, reminding guests to stay socially distanced as the theme park reopened.
After receiving the green light from Gov. Andy Beshear's administration to reopen, Kentucky's most popular amusement park was filled with familiar sounds and sights Monday: pop music playing in the background, children yelling gleefully, the whoosh of a roller coaster.
But operating a theme park in the middle of a pandemic also meant changes, reports the Louisville Courier Journal, which is a part of the USA TODAY Network. All employees' and customers' temperatures are checked upon entry. Sections of roller coasters are blocked off to create more space between groups. Masks are required for employees and encouraged for guests, though many of the latter weren't wearing them on Monday.
Jessi O'Daniel, Kentucky Kingdom's vice president of guest experience, said the park is not requiring masks for guests "because there are some guests who have preexisting conditions and things like that that you can't tell from the outside."
"We're trusting our guests and that they will do what is best for them and do what's best for the people around them," O'Daniel said.
O'Daniel added that the park has been working with local and public health officials to ensure workers' and guests' safety. The park has more than 150 hand-sanitizing stations, has shut down water fountains and has hundreds of team members reminding customers to stay 6 feet apart.
"We like to stay nimble in all things in order to provide the best possible experience for both our guests and team members," O'Daniel said. "We will always be responsive to any new instructions, protocols or information as they become available."
Though Kentucky Kingdom originally said it wanted to open at the beginning of June, Beshear expressed concern in April about the spread of the coronavirus at the park at 937 Phillips Lane. Beshear eventually announced Kentucky Kingdom could welcome guests in late June, after his administration reviewed the park's reopening plan.
According to O'Daniel, by approximately 1 p.m. Monday, more than 1,000 customers had come to the park.
Several customers recognized the COVID-19 risks but said they thought the park's health measures were sufficient.
"I'm glad Kentucky Kingdom and the governor made a plan of action to make this happen because summer is a good place for mental health release, and you can still have fun and be safe outside," said Adam Miller, who has a season pass to the park.
Miller, 25, said he has been going to Kentucky Kingdom since the 1990s. He said the park has done a "fantastic job" protecting customers but "a business can only do so much — it's up to the person individually."
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Taylor Bybee, a 22-year-old who runs a roller coaster-focused YouTube channel that has more than 160,000 subscribers, came to Louisville for Kentucky Kingdom's reopening day, as amusement parks in his home state of Virginia have not been allowed to reboot.
"What we're seeing here at Kentucky Kingdom — I think it is absolutely a safe place that people can come during a time where I think we people need a little fun in their lives right now," said Bybee, who has been to theme parks across the world.
Jerry and Karen Russell said they come to Kentucky Kingdom every weekend and "have been waiting for this day."
Karen Russell said she has "absolutely" been happy with the precautions taken at the park to promote safety. And Jerry Russell said he is "a little bit" nervous about potential coronavirus spread at the park, "but not as much as if we were inside."
"I've cautiously tried to stay away from people and keep my distance," Jerry Russell said. "You just don't know, and you can only be as safe as you can be."
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