Cypress Gardens Closing . . . For Good?

I’ve been traveling overseas and am just catching up on this story.

Cypress Gardens, one of Florida’s oldest tourist attractions, is closing yet again in another attempt to reinvent itself.

Land South Holdings LLC, the current owner, announced Monday that this Polk County theme park, long known for its botanical gardens and hoop-skirted Southern belles, would close after this coming weekend for extensive changes that should take several months to complete.

The plan (hope?) is that the park will reopen in March without the zoo or its roller coasters and other amusement park rides.

Instead, it will focus on three areas: the water-ski shows that were the park’s original draw, the botanical gardens that made it famous for generations, and the water park that opened only two years ago.

I was a fan of the “old” Cypress Gardens and not at all happy with the (IMHO) disastrous revisions made by Kent Buescher during his short and ill-fated ownership.

The only good move by the newest owners was the water park, which fills a need for people with kids who live within easy driving distance. Apparently, 80% of visitors use the water park!

If they spend the money to restore the botanical gardens to their original, over-the-top design (the newer owners cut corners and “simplified”), make the ski show something worth driving out of your way to see (it used to be fabulous), keep the sterling line up of oldies acts, and perhaps upgrade the quality of the food service, they could make a go of it.

If . . . and it’s a big if in today’s business culture . . . they’re willing to see the park return to what it was pre-Buescher: an “old folks” park.

Now that might seem a harsh way of putting it, but there’s more than a little truth to it. The “old” Cypress Gardens harkened back to a gentler era, when people took life at a slower pace and were willing to, literally, stop and smell the flowers.

Seems to me there’s still a (small) market for that kind of experience and with the Baby Boomers aging into retirement, it could be a growing market.

But I’m not holding my breath. Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I think Cypress Gardens is down for the count.

Hope I’m wrong.

Leave a Reply