Kent Buescher: Where did he go wrong?

Sunday, November 16, 2008 9:13 AM

For those that don't know Kent Buescher, he was the man who built from the ground up and founded Wild Adventures in Valdosta, GA.

He is also the man who stepped in and saved Cypress Gardens from permanent closure in Winter Haven Florida.

So basically, since this entrepenaur has now lost both parks, where did he go wrong? What caused all of these events to have a man just vanish from the amusement park scene who obviously had a passion for this business that all of us here love to visit?

My take:

1. He over extended himself.

2. He loved it to much to see that without major backing, it's a lost cause.

3. If he never got involved with Cypress Gardens, he would probably still be successfully running Wild Adventures today. (However, thanks to him, the core of the park being Cypress Gardens will live on)

4. Investing in to many assets.

5. No fault to him, but not getting the insurance claims he needed when the hurricanes wreaked havoc on CG.

I guess in this day and age when you love something, and try to make a go of it and start something of your own, it just bites you in the ass.

If you ever drove south or north on I-75 in southern Georgia, they marketed the heck out of Wild Adventures. They basically owned all of the billboards that dot that area. They also had a radio station specifically promoting the park. It obviously was an attempt to get tourists driving down to Florida to make a pitstop to WA and it seemed to work.

To bad the hurricanes of 2004 in Florida and lack of marketing for Cypress ended it all for Kent.

Last edited by Chitown, Sunday, November 16, 2008 9:23 AM
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Sunday, November 16, 2008 6:21 PM

Isn't this already being discussed ad nauseam here and here?

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Sunday, November 16, 2008 7:53 PM

PhantomTails said:
Isn't this already being discussed ad nauseam here and here?

No, not really. First, I don't consider 3 threads with a total of 48 posts "ad nauseum." I don't know of any rule that says there can't be more than one active thread about any park. Besides, this thread is about the former owner of the park, not the park itself.

Now tell that person who's sitting on you forcing you to click on this thread to stop.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008 8:17 PM

Phantomtails:

Seriously, what is your problem?

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Sunday, November 16, 2008 9:44 PM

Where did Kent go wrong? IMO, thinking that the same formula that worked over a number of years in Valdosta would work instantly in Winter Haven. The situations couldn't be more different, yet his methodology remained intact. Works great for enthusiasts looking to up their count, not such a great business model everywhere. Cypress was over-developed, under-marketed, and had incredibly poor timing (sounds way too much like that park in Myrtle, but HRP lost 10x as much money in a qiarter of the time).

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Monday, November 17, 2008 5:24 AM

rollergator said:
Where did Kent go wrong? IMO, thinking that the same formula that worked over a number of years in Valdosta would work instantly in Winter Haven. The situations couldn't be more different, yet his methodology remained intact.

I think get where you're headed. For example, my Dad deal regularly with a company based in Birmingham, AL. Well, they try to use some of the same methods up here in New England that they use down south. To make it easier,

"What works in Birmingham does not work in Boston."

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Monday, November 17, 2008 8:08 AM

Chitown said:
3. If he never got involved with Cypress Gardens, he would probably still be successfully running Wild Adventures today. (However, thanks to him, the core of the park being Cypress Gardens will live on)

Agreed. He bit off more than he could chew in Winter Haven, but it's easy to see why Kent went for it. He was able to jump on the "Save Cypress Gardens" bandwagon, picking up the park land for a pittance and became a local hero in creating jobs and re-opening a historical attraction. It also would create value in Wild Adventures annual passes, giving holders two parks for the price of one.

The park broke attendance records in its first year, about 1.5 million to 1.8 million. Obviously things must have started well or they would have never brought over the Starliner. It is why I don't buy into the whole "triple hurricane" argument that the 2004 storms that delayed the park played a part. It started strong. It just couldn't keep the momentum. It eventuallly turned into a local park in a rural area with little -- if any -- pull from the Orlando market it needed to staff the attractions.

Also, if memory serves, the original park in Valdosta started out as a gift for his wife. It was an animal park that evolved quickly with rides. So it's not as if he was a seasoned vet in the industry. That probably hurt him in the end.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008 10:33 AM

I give Kent a lot of credit for trying something new with the park. He saw an opportunity and jumped on it. The park failed for numerous reasons, very few of which were his fault.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008 2:15 PM

For every Mickey there is an Oswald. Even bright people make mistakes. In fact, it usually takes mistakes to create successes.

I don't think Kent understood the demographics of the Central Florida area. The older crowd that frequents Cypress Gardens...and has for years...enjoys the passive activites and the concerts. The younger crowd he wanted to draw to the park with the rides didn't have to go far for better, higher, faster, more thrilling and..."something other than Grandma's park."

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008 2:31 PM

I think he understood that but realized that the park's reliance on the older crowd wasn't enough to keep it alive. Seems to me he took what he knew how to do well (amusements) and applied that concept to another one. It's what I would have done.

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