William and Beverly Potts bought the land that was home to the Starway Fun Park and Starway Drive-In for $190,000 from Thelma Fincel on June 21, 2019. The pair plan to open an auction lot on the property in the future. (Photo by McKenna Horsley)

An auction house recently bought the land that was once home to Starway Fun Park and one of Kentucky's first drive-in theaters. 

Potts Auctions Inc. posted about the sale on on its Facebook page. According to the post, the business plans to convert the property into an auction lot. The purchase comes during the company's 10th year of business. 

According to Franklin County Property Valuation Administrator's records, William and Beverly Potts bought the land for $190,000 from Thelma Fincel on June 21. The lot is slightly more than 10 acres at 3350 Louisville Road. 

William Potts said he has been in the auction business since he was a kid and that Potts Auctions mostly rents areas like the fairgrounds in Shelbyville for auctions or goes directly to farms for sales. He lives in Smithfield and said he saw the Starway Fun Park property for sale when he drove by it and thought that it would be a good place for an auction lot. 

He plans to keep most of the existing structures on the lot. The concession stand will become the main office, the old sign will stay up and he plans to display old photos from the property's history and the movie projector. The biggest task will be to remove overgrown brush, which grew for almost 11 years. Potts said he doesn't currently have an opening date in mind and added that he still has some paperwork to file for the business. 

When Potts originally announced the acquisition on Facebook, the post received more than 480 comments expressing mixed feelings about the sale. Some comments offered praise and said that they would be willing to offer their own services to Potts while others were negative about the idea of an auction lot. 

"Congrats, but a very sad day, was really hoping that one of the original drive-ins in Kentucky would have been bought by someone who respected the history and would have tried to open it back up, instead of turning it into a lot," one poster said. 

"This is so stupid. We have plenty of other places in Frankfort you can hold auctions at. ... Everyone is so concerned about the drug problem in Frankfort. Give the people something other than drugs to spend their money on!!!!!!!! And let me tell ya, tearing Starway down to replace it with an auction lot is NOT the way to do it!" another commenter added. 

Potts said he has seen the comments and he thinks the history of the place is "a neat thing," which is why he plans to display some of the relics of Starway. 

"They weren't very nice about it," Potts said, adding that the comments have not changed his attitude about the sale or his plans for the property.

City Commissioner Eric Whisman, who is on the board of the Franklin County Trust for Historic Preservation and is a past president of the trust, said he and other citizens had previously tried to organize a nonprofit organization to restore Starway Fun Park into a drive-in theater. The plan, which was mostly in a conceptual phase, was to create the nonprofit, which would own the property and lease it to an outside company to run the facility.

Whisman said that the Starway Drive-In opened in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II, as one of the first drive-ins in the commonwealth with spots for 433 cars. The first drive-in in the U.S. opened only 13 years prior.

When the property was sold in 1991, the land had a 30-year deed restriction to prevent it from having another theater, Whisman said. Thus, in 1994, Starway Family Entertainment Centers reopened the area as a small amusement park. The ticket booth, concession stand and marquee sign are all original features of the drive-in, Whisman added. 

"I was a little disappointed when I heard that it sold," he said, adding that he hopes that there is still an opportunity to honor the history of the property. The land is eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and by earning that designation, the property could get some small tax credits. 

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