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Arthur Levine

Cypress Gardens Withers

By September 24, 2009

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In the fall, trees, plants, and flowers shed their leaves and blossoms to prepare for the arrival of spring and a new season. After years of plummeting revenues and a parade of owners, Florida's Cypress Gardens may not have another season. And that's a shame.

Current owner Land South Adventures LLC closed the park's gates yesterday and announced that it is seeking buyers or renters. Acknowledging the challenges of operating the park in its current form, the company said that it would consider selling or leasing the property in parcels.

Dating back to 1936, Cypress Gardens is the oldest theme park in Florida. Disney and other next-generation parks rendered Cypress Gardens a bit too quaint, and by 2003, it closed after years of dwindling attendance. Kent Buescher, then the owner of Georgia's Wild Adventures, came to the rescue and reopened the park in 2005 with a water park, concert series, coasters, and other amusement park staples. Buescher was successful in boosting attendance at the rejuvenated park, but by late 2007, mounting debt forced him to sell both Wild Adventures and Cypress Gardens.

When it took over in 2008, Land South Adventures ditched the coasters and rides, as well as the park's animal exhibits. It also began charging a separate fee for Splash Island Water Park, which had been included in general admission. Those seemed like boneheaded moves to me at the time and may have helped doom the company's chances for success.

With its incredibly beautiful gardens and venerable status, I'd be sad to see Cypress Gardens close for good. What are your thoughts?? Have you visited Cypress Gardens? Would you lament its loss if it closed? Click on "Comments" below to join the conversation.

Photo: Elegant cypress trees line the banks of Lake Eloise at Cypress Gardens. Arthur Levine, 2006. Licensed to About.com.

September 30, 2009 at 4:38 pm
(1) Sue says:

I enjoyed visits to Cypress Gardens. It was a laid-back atmosphere and had a variety of interesting and unusual things for all ages. Sadly, I never got to ride Starliner as it opened the week after I flew back to UK and closed the week before my next trip to Florida!

September 30, 2009 at 4:43 pm
(2) Arthur says:

Thanks for writing Sue. I never got to ride Starliner either. It wasn’t up and running all that long. News flash: The folks from Legoland may be interested in purchasing Cypress Gardens. Fascinating development.


October 28, 2009 at 10:08 pm
(3) Tammy says:

I was deeply, deeply saddened to hear of the closure of Cypress Gardens! Overall, theme parks have drastically changed, and I suppose it was tough for a laid-back, leisurely atmosphere such as Cypress Gardens to compete with Universal, Disney, etc.

Actually, I relished the laid-back style. It felt like more of a day “away,” while a day at Universal or Disney leaves you exhausted and drained. Especially if you have kids in tow.

I’ll be mourning the loss of Cypress Gardens for quite some time, and will be devastated if it’s broken apart and destroyed by greedy, relentless developers.

November 8, 2009 at 9:49 am
(4) Carol Michaels says:

A major mistake to remove the rides the park was doing well when it reopened about 4 years ago with the shows & rides it was an enjoyable place to go. I was a season ticket for all of those years & enjoyed it immensely. LLC was very foolish to remove the rides and reopen without them. The management that came down from Ga had the right idea, too bad the LLC idiots didn’t keep that idea going. The christmas season was especially wonderful with their Old fashioned Christmas very said to see it go

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