Cypress Gardens sets March 28 as reopening date
Published: Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Shuttered since Nov. 17 for renovations, Cypress Gardens will reopen March 28
with a former park veteran at the helm, attraction officials said today.
Bill Sims, introduced by owners Brian Philpot and Rob Harper
as leader of the attraction's new management team,
said Florida's first theme park will open in time for spring break.
The announcement was made during a 10 a.m. news conference
at the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce building downtown.
Sims is a former executive vice president of Cypress Gardens
who worked with the founding Pope family from the early 1970s until 1985,
when the the park was sold for the first time.
He also is the former chief executive officer and executive vice president of
the Silver Springs attraction near Ocala and a former state tourism official.
The reborn Cypress Gardens will focus on the botanical and topiary gardens
along with the Splash Island water park.
To save on operating costs, the park owners have shelved the rides
and found new homes for the creatures in the attraction's former zoo.
The famous ski shows and the electric boat tours also will resume operation.
The gardens and the water park will have separate admission gates and separate ticketing.
Sims said ticket prices will be reduced up to 40 percent off the 2008 prices.
Season passes will go on sale March 1
Cypress Gardens shutting down, will reopen in March
Published: Monday, November 10, 2008
After months of "exhaustive analysis" by park officials and
owners, Cypress Gardens Adventure Park will temporarily close Nov. 17
for major renovations, the officials said in prepared release issued this morning.
With a reopening scheduled for March, plans include expanding the water park,
while preserving the history and nostalgia of the original park
and focusing on the original botanical gardens and "their worldwide notoriety,"
according to the release.
The ski show will continue, but the existing animal area and the ride area
will be closed permanently , the release states.
“The operating expense of running 38 amusement rides, a zoo, the botanical gardens,
a ski show and a water park are considerable,”
Cypress Gardens co-owner Rob Harper said in the release.
“It is obvious the park cannot successfully function as four parks in one.
We have some exciting new plans that everyone will be thrilled to see come March.”
Harper's business partner, Brian Philpot, addressed rumors that they plan
to redevelop the park's lakefront property.
"That's crazy," Philpot told the News Chief this morning. "We're not making a real estate play.
We're making an operating decision.
The restrictions (on the park land) prohibit residential on the property."
To finish planning for the future of the park and renovate the grounds prior to the March reopening,
Cypress Gardens will complete its last full day of operations Sunday, park officials said.
“We are in the process of notifying our employees.
The vast majority of them will be temporarily without work at the park during the renovations,
and those eligible will be reinstated when renovations are complete,” Harper said in the release.
The attraction employs 15 salaried employees and about half of them will be affected by the layoff,
Philpot said today.
An additional 200 people are hourly employees.
He wouldn't say how many will be rehired when the park reopens in March.
"A certain amount of people are eligible for reinstatement," Philpot said.
According to the owners, the planned renovations for the park
are centered around the core elements that have made Cypress Gardens famous around the world,
while simultaneously making it a sustainable long-term success.
Philpot said the key is ensuring that the integrity of the original Cypress Gardens
is not compromised by nonoriginal and nonessential elements.
“The last thing we want to do is jeopardize the history and long-term future of this storied park
with elements that do not promote what made Cypress Gardens what it is today
- a beautiful botanical garden for enjoyment by all ages,” Harper said in the release.
Planned changes include adding a parking area and moving the main entrance back to where it was
when Cypress Gardens first opened.
The new parking area will provide convenient access for visitors to the water park and gardens.
Visitors had complained about the long, three-quarter-mile walk from the current parking lot
through the ride area to the water park and botanical gardens, the owners said.
Among other changes will be new cultural components showcasing the history of Cypress Gardens.
These changes will make the visitor experience much more enjoyable, the owners said.
Rob Harper and Brian Philpot are doing the right thing with these plans
and we look forward to helping them along the way,”
Polk CountyTourism and Sports Marketing Director Mark Jackson said in the release.
“Polk County benefits greatly from the thousands of visitors that come to Cypress Gardens each year,
and this move will ensure the long-term sustainability of one of Polk County’s largest tourism assets.”
The renovations come during a normally slow time of year for tourism
and with the park ready to reopen right before the peak of the busiest tourism season,
the new Cypress Gardens will be poised to attract the many visitors
that will be coming to Polk County, the owners said.
Harper said it has been a difficult decision to temporarily close for the renovations
because the park didn’t want to cause any inconvenience to its employees or guests.
However, in the long term, this approach is best for all involved, Harper said.
“We regret any inconvenience this may bring to our employees and many guests,
and ask for their patience and understanding as these changes
are necessary for the sustained long-term success of the park," Harper said.
"More information will be available for our pass holders in the weeks ahead
and ask that they check our Web site in coming weeks.
We are excited about the future of Cypress Gardens, and look forward to an improved guest experience.”
More information and updates will be available periodically on the park’s Web site
as the renovations progress.
Cypress Gardens facing temporary closing
Monday, November 10, 2008
POLK COUNTY (Bay News 9)
Cypress Gardens is closing its doors - but only temporarily.
The Polk County theme park will shut down on Nov. 17 and reopen in March with an expanded water park.
But when the park does reopen, it will do so without rides and animal attractions,
although the water park will be expanded.
"There have been rumors and expectations that things were gonna change,"
said Cypress Gardens Marketing Manager Jennifer Mansfield.
"We just weren't sure what those were or when that would happen."
The focus will go back to the world famous ski show and botanical gardens.
"Winter Haven's fortunes have long been tied to Cypress Gardens.
So, we want to see in some way shape or form the original part of the park be successful,"
said Winter Haven Chamber President Bob Gernert.
Gernert is excited about the new plan for the struggling park.
"Even in a good market, the park was being challenged by every economic factor known," he said.
Also, the 72-year-old amusement park will temporarily lay off 200 workers.
Season pass holders can visit the park's web site in a few weeks to get updates on their passes.
The move is the latest in a string of moves the park has made in recent years
to maintain its relevancy in the shadow of mega-parks like Disney and Sea World.
The owners say the renovations come during a normally slow time of year
and the park will reopen just before the peak of the tourism season.
In 2004, Adventure Parks Group purchased Cypress Gardens for $7 million.
But the park was devastated by debt caused by the hurricanes of 2004.
In Sept. 2007, Land South Holdings bought Cypress Gardens in a bankruptcy sale for $16.8 million.