Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens
Cypress Gardens
Cypress Gardens Adventure Park topiary.jpg
The parks' name after reopening in November 2004.
Location Winter Haven, Florida, United States
Coordinates 27°59′24.41″N 81°41′30.66″W / 27.9901139°N 81.69185°W / 27.9901139; -81.69185Coordinates: 27°59′24.41″N 81°41′30.66″W / 27.9901139°N 81.69185°W / 27.9901139; -81.69185
Owner Merlin Entertainments
Opened January 2, 1936 (1936-01-02)
Closed September 23, 2009 (2009-09-23)
Previous names Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
Operating season Year-round
Rides 41 total
  • 5 roller coasters
  • 2 water rides
The Gazebo and a Southern belle of Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens was an American theme park near Winter Haven, Florida, that operated from 1936 to 2009.



Billed as Florida's first commercial tourist theme park,[1] Cypress Gardens opened on January 2, 1936 as a botanical garden planted by Dick Pope Sr. and his wife Julie. Over the years, it became one of the biggest attractions in Florida, known for its water ski shows, lush gardens, and Southern Belles.

It became known as the "Water Ski Capital of the World" because many of the sport's landmark firsts and the over 50 world records broken there. Numerous movies were filmed at the park, including portions of This is Cinerama, the first feature filmed in the wide-screen format, and a string of Esther Williams films and TV specials in the 1950s and 1960s.[2] In the 1950s a quaint attraction, young women dressed in the crinolines reminiscent of the Antebellum South. During the American Civil War Centennial young men dressed in Confederate uniforms would be photographed with the Southern Belles. With their addition of a custom photography boat named Miss Cover Girl in the early 1960s, the park became a popular site for the filming of television commercials.

Many celebrities and dignitaries have skied and visited at the park, including Elvis Presley, Jordan's former King Hussein and his son and successor, King Abdullah II. It was also the site of a Johnny Carson special.

Competitions and changes of ownership

Competition for guests increased after Walt Disney World Resort opened nearby in 1971. In the early 1980s, the Popes retired and transferred the park to their son, Dick Pope, Jr.

In the 1980s, book publisher Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich purchased the park along with SeaWorld, Circus World (later rebuilt as Boardwalk & Baseball) and Stars Hall of Fame, but sold most of the businesses to Anheuser-Busch in 1989. Busch continued to operate Cypress Gardens until April 1, 1995, when a group of the park's managers led by Bill Reynolds bought the property.

Bill Reynolds and a Southern Belle

Under President and CEO Reynolds, the park operated until April 13, 2003, when it closed after a prolonged tourism decline following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 529 people were put out of work with three days' notice. Immediately the Friends of Cypress Gardens, founded and led by Burma Davis Posey, was incorporated. They enlisted members in all 50 of the United States and in 27 countries. Within three and a half months, the grass-roots effort raised USD 13,500,000 and saved the park.

Cypress Gardens Adventure Park

On February 22, 2004, Adventure Parks Group, owned by Kent Buescher, purchased the property and renamed it Cypress Gardens Adventure Park. The purchase of the amusement park portion of the Cypress Gardens property was part of a larger conservation transaction. In that transaction, the entire 150-acre (61 ha) site was purchased from its previous owner, First Gardens, L.C., by The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization[3]. TPL then sold a conservation easement over the entire property to the state of Florida, while Polk County, purchased the 30-acre (12 ha) gardens portion of the property, less the development rights conveyed in the state easement. Adventure Parks Group purchased the balance of the property, also subject to the conservation easement.

The Triple Hurricane, the park's first wooden roller coaster.

Buescher's plan to reopen the park in September 2004 was delayed by damages created by hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne. Cypress Gardens Adventure Park finally opened in November 2004. One of its new attractions, the Triple Hurricane roller coaster, was named for the tumultuous storm season. The adjacent Splash Island water park opened in 2005, along with the Galaxy Spin roller coaster.

In September 2006, Adventure Parks Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the Florida site following approximately $30 million in damages sustained by the 2004 hurricanes.

Land South Adventures, a subsidiary of Mulberry, Florida-based Land South Holdings, purchased Cypress Gardens at a bankruptcy auction on October 16, 2007, for $16.9 million, leaving Buescher as interim manager until Baker Leisure Group of Orlando, Florida, took over park operations in January 2008.[4]

On Monday, November 10, 2008, Land South Holdings announced the temporary closure of the park, which was shut down November 17 of that year. It reopened on March 28, 2009, with an expanded water park named Splash Island. The animals, however, were gone, and the rides did not operate or had already been removed. Cypress Gardens and Splash Island began separate ticketing, with dual-park season passes also available; parking was free.[5]

Based on a visual confirmation in September 2009, all of the roller coasters except for Fiesta Express were still at Cypress Gardens but not operating. An employee working there stated that the remaining roller coasters and rides left at the park were to be sold.[original research?]

On September 23, 2009, owner Land South Holdings LLC announced that the park was closing immediately, saying that all avenues to keep the park open had been explored but that they were unable to find a way to "keep the park running in its traditional form." [6]

From Cypress Gardens to Legoland

On January 15, 2010, the world's second largest theme park and attraction operator Merlin Entertainments bought Cypress Gardens with intent to use the site for the fifth Legoland.[7] On January 21, 2010, Merlin Entertainments announced that the park would be turned into Legoland Florida.[8] On October 21, 2010, an October 2011 opening date was announced.[9] While no specific date was given at the press conference, work on retheming the park has already begun. Opening day was October 15th, 2011 at 10am EST.


Roller coasters

Ride Year Opened Year Closed Description
Fiesta Express 2004 2008 A Zamperla kiddie coaster with small hairpin turns. It was relocated at Gillian's Funland in Sea Isle City, NJ in 2009.
Okeechobee Rampage 2004 2008 A Vekoma junior roller coaster. It will reopen in the new Legoland Florida as Dragon.
Swamp Thing 2004 2008 A Vekoma Suspended Family Coaster. It will reopen in the new Legoland Florida as Flight School.
Triple Hurricane 2004 2008 A Martin & Vleminckx Group junior wooden coaster. It was named for the three hurricanes (Charley, Frances, and Jeanne) that struck the park in 2004. It is an ACE Coaster Classic. It will reopen in the new Legoland Florida, under the name Coastersaurus.[10]
Galaxy Spin 2005 2008 A Zamperla Spinning Wild Mouse coaster, similar to Primeval Whirl at Disney's Animal Kingdom. It was relocated to Fun Spot USA in Kissimmee, FL and reopened in July 2011 under the name Power Trip.
Starliner 2007 2008 A classic Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters designed wooden coaster. It originally operated at Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City Beach, Florida. It will reopen in Panama City's new version of Miracle Strip by mid 2012.

Thrill rides

Ride Year Opened Year Closed Description
Delta Kite Flyers 2004 2008 Zamperla Kite Flyer flat ride, riders are spun around while in a flying position.
Disk'O 2004 2008 Zamperla Disk-O flat ride, riders spin around on a frisbee traversing a track.
Pharaoh's Fury 2004 2008 Chance Rides Swinging Ship flat ride.
Power Surge 2004 2008 Zamperla Power Surge flat ride, a large spinning and flipping flat ride.
Thunderbolt 2004 2008 An ARM tower ride, similar to Power Tower at Cedar Point.
Yo-Yo 2004 2008 Chance Rides "Yo-Yo" flat ride, a circular "wave swinger" type flat ride.


See also


External links

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  • Cypress Gardens — Original name in latin Cypress Gardens Name in other language State code US Continent/City America/New York longitude 27.99391 latitude 81.69008 altitude 55 Population 8917 Date 2011 05 14 …   Cities with a population over 1000 database

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