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Closing of Cypress Gardens Brief History of Cypress Gardens 60 Years of Water Skiing


Closing of Cypress Gardens

April 10, 2003
www.cypressgardens.com/pressrelease/displaynews.asp?newsid=1028


Florida Cypress Gardens
announced today its plans to cease normal park operations
when the park closes at
7:00pm Sunday, April 13th
This announcement comes from Bill Reynolds, President and CEO.
This painful decision is one which the owners and operators
of Florida Cypress Gardens have little to no control over.
The circumstances dating back to
September 11th, 2001
which brought about an immediate decline in the tourism industryare part of the decision to close.
Attendance, the park’s major source of revenue, has never rebounded from this event.
Even with the best entertainment offering in its history,
the park’s March attendance was down 42,000 visitors from the previous year.”
The ensuing worsening economy, and the effect on those who rely on interest for their income
– the majority of Cypress Gardens’ clientele – have also been contributing factors.
The threat of terrorism and the Iraq threat and ultimate war
have impacted the park’s ability to sustain itself.
This unavoidable action will result in the immediate layoff of essentially the entire staff,
although a skeleton crew will remain for a short time to secure the property
and wrap up the park’s affairs in an orderly manner.
Reynolds stated that this is purely a financial decision.
“It is mandated by our lack of funds to sustain the normal operations.
These diminished funds have impacted the company
and placed it in this faltering and distressed situation.
This distressed situation has been created as previously mentioned by unforeseen factors
beyond the control of Cypress Gardens’ management and efforts.”
Reynolds and his ownership team acquired the Cypress Gardens property
on April 1, 1995 from the Anheuser Busch theme park division.
This sale took place in an effort to better position Cypress Gardens for continued operation.
It was believed that a private entrepreneurial ownership
would be the best course of action for this small Central Florida attraction.
Over the eight years of private ownership, despite imaginative and creative marketing strategies
and substantial capital investment in the park,
the operations have accumulated losses of over six million dollars.
Financial issues pertaining to creditors and others will be dealt with
in accordance with the limited resources available,
and in consultation with financial advisors and legal counsel.
Reynolds commented that one reason this decision is so painful
is because of the tremendous efforts that have been undertaken
by the Cypress Gardens’ employees to provide a wonderful experience for its guests.
“I’d like to thank them for all of their dedication and work over the years.”
The park will be open Thursday and Friday from
9:30 am to 5:00pm and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 am to 7:00pm.
-- end --

P.0. Box 1
Cypress Gardens, FL 33884-0009
1-800-282-2123

More than 15,000 people passed through the park's gates Sunday





Closing of Cypress Gardens Brief History of Cypress Gardens 60 Years of Water Skiing

2003 - A Brief History of Cypress Gardens

www.cypressgardens.com/pressrelease/displaynews.asp?newsid=1008 2/11/2003

They say Cypress Gardens founder Dick Pope, Sr. was born in the midst of an Iowa cyclone.
And, the energy of that cyclone -- and the bluster --
was absorbed by Pope and drove him energetically through all his life.
Born at the dawn of the new century, Pope came to Florida with his father at age 11
and honed his sales skills helping his dad sell real estate, closing his first deal at the age of 12.
He met and married his life partner, Julie Downing, in 1926.
After the Florida real estate market went bust in 1927,
Pope needed a way to support his new wife.
Outboard motors were just coming into use
and Dick had heard that one manufacturer was planning a publicity campaign.
He and his bride hopped into a car and headed to Johnson Outboards headquarters.
At every city en route, Dick stopped and sent a telegram to the president:
"Hold all publicity plans until I get there. Your problem is solved."
The company, bowled over by his high-pressure approach, gave him a $1,000 a month job.
He staged death-defying boat races all over the state of Florida
to publicize the introduction of the famous Johnson SeaHorse outboard motor.
He became so successful that he started his own public relations agency.
His client list grew and he had elegant offices
in the prestigious Tribune building in Chicago and the Graybar building in New York.
But Pope had been touting the Sunshine State for so long
he had convinced himself that Florida was the only place to live.
So, in the midst of the worst depression this country has ever endured,
he and Julie decided to head back to the land of oranges.
According to Pope, “This all came about, you know,
because Julie showed me an article in Good Housekeeping,
while we were living in New York,
about a banker in Charleston who had opened his private estate to the public,
and charged admission and had taken in $36,000 cash in one year -- a big sum in those days.
It stayed in our minds, and one day after we decided to come back to Florida, we talked it over and said,
“someday we'd build a Garden, so I could be president -- and attract visitors to Winter Haven!”
In the latter part of 1932 -- while Florida was in the grip of the depression that followed the boom --
he sold the WFERA -- a branch of the WPA --
on the idea that instead of having men raking leaves at a dollar a day,
they could beautify and rebuild the canals and chain of lakes.
They started work on the canals, and then planned on adding a hanging garden
on Lake Eloise, which later became Cypress Gardens.
At the time, Pope was chairman of the canal commission for the Lake Region,
so the property was put in their name.
But after spending about $3500 of government money and $1500 of the canal commission's money,
opposition to the project locally became so severe that it was canceled by the WFERA
and the canal commission was repaid its $1500.
They deeded the property over to the Florida Cypress Gardens Association, Inc.
Working side by side with the laborers in the muck, Pope began constructing his dream garden.
Many in the press laughed at the idea of building a beautiful tropical showcase
in the middle of a 16-acre marsh,
calling him “Maharaja of Muck” and “Swami of the Swamp,” but he persevered.
Dick didn't know one flower from another, but Julie Pope, born and raised in Brewton, AL,
knew plants, loved them and had a "green thumb."
Always a picture enthusiast, Pope set up an 8 by 10 view camera while laying out the Garden’s paths
to be sure he could get good picture compositions with his plantings.
If a big tree or lagoon appeared as an obstacle, he went around it with his walkways
(and besides, it cost money to build bridges and fill stump-holes).
Finally, on
January 2, 1936, the gates opened on what would become a showplace
for 8,000 varieties of plants from more than 90 different countries.
In 1938, the first electric boats began gliding through the tropical canals.
Pope’s newsreels, photographs, and tireless showmanship soon resulted in countless images
of beautiful women, palm trees, exotic flowers
and always-sunny Florida skies published around the world.
He was proclaimed “Mr. Florida,” first citizen of the state and, in time, the “Father of Florida Tourism.”
Through the years, some of Cypress Gardens’ icons came about out of necessity.
For instance, in 1940, the flame vine on the entrance wall,
the first plant visitors saw when they arrived, died during a freeze.
All the plants inside the Gardens were protected by smudge pots and were fine.
Twenty people drove up the first day and drove away again without going in.
Mrs. Pope called one of the girls. "Put on an old-fashioned dress,” she said,
"that will be warm without looking warm and we'll put a shawl on your shoulders.
Then you go stand by that dead vine and flirt with everybody
that comes in so hard that they don't see the vine."
People quit leaving without entering the gardens.
In fact, they didn’t even notice the dead vine.
The gracious Southern Belles became a tradition that is an ongoing part of the beauty of the Gardens.
The world famous water ski show had the same sort of beginning.
In 1943, while Pope was serving in World War II, one of the photos in a local newspaper
featured water skiers being pulled by a boat at Cypress Gardens.
Several soldiers in the area came to see the “water show,” even though none existed.
But Julie, the consummate businesswoman, rounded up her children and their friends
to stage the park’s first water ski show.
The next weekend, 800 soldiers showed up, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Cypress Gardens was soon dubbed the “water ski capital of the world,” a distinction it still enjoys today.
Celebrities and Hollywood movie producers discovered Cypress Gardens in the late ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s,
including Elvis Presley, Esther Williams and Johnny Carson.
Full-length features including “On an Island With You,” “Easy to Love,”
parts of “Moon Over Miami,” “This is Cinerama,”
and hundreds of short features flooded movie theaters all over the country,
building the tremendous recognition of the Gardens.
Cypress Gardens expanded during the ‘70s and ‘80s
to compete with new Central Florida theme parks springing up.
In the early ‘80s, Pope retired and passed the reins to his son, Dick Jr.
In June 1985, after almost a half-century of Pope family ownership and involvement,
Cypress Gardens was sold to publishing conglomerate Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
HBJ sunk several million dollars into a new package of attractions, shows and food concessions
before selling Cypress Gardens and four Sea World parks to
Busch Entertainment Corporation (BEC) in 1989.
During BEC’s tenure, the park again underwent capital expansions and improvements,
including the introduction of more new attractions, shows, shops and festivals.
In 1995, BEC sold Cypress Gardens to the park’s current management team.
Back in the hands of local owners,
Cypress Gardens’ attendance has since flourished with such new attractions
as a spring lights festival, ice skating show, covered floral show and zoo.
And, in 1999, the park added an authentic paddle wheel boat for sightseeing tours
and romantic brunch and dinner cruises.
“Not only do we have Dick Pope’s legacy to live up to,
but we purchased a Florida tourism icon that is as well branded as Proctor and Gamble,”
said Bill Reynolds, president and CEO.
“As stewards for this incredible historic attraction,
we are strategically planning the future of the park to ensure its position
as one of Florida’s true tourism treasures.
We will continue to emphasize the park’s traditional heritage as a world-famous botanical garden and
water ski capital as well as introduce new entertainment elements designed to appeal to all ages.”

Adult admission is $34.95, youth (10-17) $22.95, and child (3-9) 12.95.
Cypress Gardens is a 200-acre “must-see” tropical theme park
noted for its beautiful plants and flowers and its world-famous water ski shows.
It is located off U.S. Hwy. 27 just 22 miles south of I-4 between Orlando and Tampa
on the shores of Lake Eloise and Lake Summit near Winter Haven.
The park is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with extended hours during special seasons.
For more information on Cypress Gardens, call (800) 282-2123 or (863) 324-2111, ext. 1214.





Closing of Cypress Gardens Brief History of Cypress Gardens 60 Years of Water Skiing

2003 - Cypress Gardens Celebrates 60 Years of Water Skiing

http://www.cypressgardens.com/pressrelease/displaynews.asp?newsid=1019 2/11/2003

Cypress Gardens is celebrating 60 years
of incredible feats and numerous contributions to the sport of water-skiing.
With the best talent and most beautiful location,
Cypress Gardens is home to the only water ski show in the southeastern United States.
Many “firsts” in water skiing have been made on Lake Eloise,
home to the world famous Cypress Gardens skiers.
Dick Pope, park founder, and his Cypress Gardens champion skiers have given water skiing,
and the Cypress Gardens ski show a terrific reputation all over the world.
In 1943, while Dick Pope, Sr. was serving in World War II,
a photo in the local newspaper featured water skiers being pulled by a boat at Cypress Gardens.
Several soldiers in the area came to see the “water show,” even though none existed.
But Julie Pope, Dick Pope’s wife, the consummate businesswoman,
rounded up her children and their friends to stage the park’s first water ski show.
The next weekend, 800 soldiers showed up, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Cypress Gardens was soon dubbed the “water ski capital of the world,” a distinction it still enjoys today.
A special 3-day skier reunion is planned for Labor Day weekend, August 30, 31, and September 1.
Guests are invited to join former and current Cypress Gardens' skiers and ski enthusiasts
to celebrate the 60-year anniversary of water skiing at Cypress Gardens.
This 3-day weekend will include a special water ski show, dining events, amazing ski demonstrations,
photo opportunities, and much more.
Special ticket packages for skiers and enthusiasts, including admission for all 3 days, are available.
Cypress Gardens is a 200-acre “must-see” tropical theme park
noted for its beautiful plants and flowers and its world-famous water ski shows.
It is located off U.S. Hwy. 27 just 22 miles south of I-4 between Orlando and Tampa
on the shores of Lake Eloise and Lake Summit near Winter Haven.
The park is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with extended hours during special seasons.




April 1, 1995 Cypress Gardens reuturned to local ownership
Pictured above (R-L)
Bill Renyolds, CEO
Bob Kehoe, Vice President of Finance
Dennis Brock, Vice President of Park Services
Sharon Creedon, Vice President of Marketing
Deborah Jones, Vice President of Human Resources
Glenn LaBuda, Vice President of Revenue
Tom Tripiano, Vice President of Operations
Photo from WHNC


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