New owners say Cypress Gardens will survive

Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2007 10:45 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The new ownership of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park says it is confident about what it will take to make a viable business out of the state's oldest theme park: More of the same. The park, which is up and running, was purchased in an October bankruptcy proceeding by Brian Philpot and Robert Harper IV for $16.8 million. The former owner, Kent Buescher, is staying on as CEO.

Read more from AP via The Herald Tribune.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007 11:05 AM
Well, with any luck there won't be any hurricanes this time around and the new owners will thrive.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007 11:56 AM
I think you have to have realistic expectations. Knott's Berry Farm has done very well in the shadows of Disney and Universal for decades. Geauga Lake did fine for decades in the shadow of Cedar Point and King's Island.

But, if Cypress Gardens tries to go head to head with the big boys then it is game up. The pricing strategy is great, particularly when you consider the prohibitive pricing at the parks up the road. I think the Gardens would be a great alternative to groups, schools, family reunions, etc.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007 1:23 PM
Cypress Gardens is an entirely different experience from the Disneys and Universals. It's quaint, charming, loaded with character, and not burdened with Big Corporate. And now with Starliner, it's a woodie lover's destination.

Anyone who goes, make sure to venture into the botanical gardens to witness the banyan tree. It is truly a must-see.

I'm glad things are looking up for this little gem of a park, and I'm glad they kept Mr. Buescher on to run the place.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007 4:42 PM
I visited Cypress Gardens last Friday when I was in Orlando for IAAPA. I chose to visit it and Sea World because in all my trips to the area I had never been to either park before. I was very impressed with both parks, but especially Cypress Gardens.

Every once in a while I visit a landmark that I've read about all my life, seen a million pictures of, and I'm very sure of exactly what it'll be like when I get there. Then it turns out, after all, to be completely different from what I ever expected. NYC, the Golden Gate Bridge, Vegas, and Disney are examples. Now I can add Cypress Gardens to that list.

It has to be one of the most beautiful settings found anywhere. The original Botanical Gardens (around since the 1930's) are spectacular, and the parts of the park that have been added through the decades are no less impressive. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful, and no matter what age, seemed to realize and appreciate the jewel they operate and maintain.

The water ski show, complete with the World Famous Aqua Maids, ramp jumpers, comedy, and now wake boarders was delightful, and a rather quaint (if not kitchy) blast from the past. They are proud of the fact that water skiing got it's "start" at Cypress and are pleased to continue the tradition. I loved it.

One of my concerns from the start was the ride area, and that it wouldn't be on par with the rest of the park. Not so. Even though most rides are carnival flats, they were placed with constant thought to the surrounding scenery. Big trees, manicured lawns, flowers and cute buildings made the area seem like it had been there all along, and not a "parking lot" add-on. My one big disappointment? No Starliner that day. It was down due to an electrical sensor problem. They were working on it and testing continuously, and I waited until early evening hoping for a ride. When the maintenance men finally packed up to leave, so did I. Something for next time!

I shudder to think that we almost lost Cypress Gardens a few years back. I asked a few of the old time employees there if they were concerned for the park's future, especially with the frequent changes in ownership over the last few years. They each said no, they could feel a resurgence, business was picking up and they were confident that we would be hearing big things from Cypress in the future. ( I understand the state of Florida has control over the original botanical gardens now, so there's at least reassurance that part of the park will remain a protected landmark)

It's a delightful place. Good luck and thanks to the new owners, and best wishes to all involved.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007 5:25 PM
I went down early Feb and wow.. This park was such a change from all that crowd and noise. We showed up nobody was there and the one's showing up where getting the senior rate. The park was laid out with breathe taking flowers and the lake as a back drop.. You couldn't ask for a better looking park. The flat rides are great and the coasters where great family coasters. Can't wait to get back and ride the Starliner. Hope this park can get out of the hole and bring that old time feeling back.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007 12:55 AM
I was there on Thursday of last week.

Sad about the lack of rain they have been having, many of their streams are very low. Overall, I thought the gardens have been slightly neglected. i know it's a lot of work and take a ton of man hours to keep things trimmed and groomed, but there were areas near the back which could have really used some simple maintainence.

Had a great discussion with one of the garden supervisiors had he is very optimistic about the future of the park. He was telling me about the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water they have been using for some of the fountains and how they may cease operations on some of those. water has also been cut off to some other fountains where they have found leaks. The park has also had to rely on city water for some things.

I was also informed that the entire park menu is going to change and one of the new owners son's is a renouned chef, and the food quality will improve.

As for the rides. Carnival or not, they all blend in nicely. I was disappointed that Starliner got seatbelts...and that EVERY single seatbelt was a different legnth. It also lost the tunnel and had a few feet cut off of it to make room, but it didn't effect the ride experience. It also loads straight and not on a curve anymore.

Some notes about the flat rides:
• Flying scooters have bad, heavy tubs
• Inverter just needs to go
• Disc-o down for refurbishment (I still haven't been on one yet)
• Didn't care for the Megabounce
• Train not working, but is being overhauled.
• Park would be smart to add another water ride in 4 or 5 years.

Some of the coasters could really use some sort of a roof over them as well.

It's very nice to see this park coming back. They still need to address a few things, but Its nice to see they are in it for the long haul.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007 12:24 PM
I agree with you, john peck. I thought the Gardens were beautiful, but were suffering from minor maintenance issues. The walkways back there are poured and stamped concrete and I noticed a few cracks and broken spots. Signage and educational information was either worn out or missing altogether, and water features were low. I had to forgive them, though, as the park has been in such upheaval the last few seasons, and I couldn't believe how well maintained it actually was given their financial situation of late. Plus, improvements were happening all around me. Gardeners were refurbishing and adding foliage to the giant toparies. Plus there was a big push to get ready for the Holidays which kick off at the park this Friday. Thousands of poinsettias were in position to be planted in the annual beds, and the boys were busy erecting those illuminated wire sculptures creating a Holiday walk thru of lights for evenings at the park.

I also got some word about the food. I ate in the buffet restaurant and it was pretty good for the money. It had all the makings of Sunday dinner, and the staff was great. I was told the Plantation House is being converted to fine dining, and they were working on the interior the day I was there.

And yes, were those not the worst Flying Scooters ever? I'm a good flyer, and I could barely get the thing to sway. Not only heavy, but the front flap was so short it was impossible to catch a gust of wind for lift. They would benefit at least by buying new Larson tubs, that is if they can't find any Bisch Roccos laying around! I thought the Megabounce was ok, but was the most carnival-looking installation they had. The Inverter and the YoYo looked ok. The rides around the fake (empty) lake could use a little work, but all in all better than I expected.

I'm taking friends there in May, so we'll see what's happened since.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007 2:45 PM
Seems we get so lost in the 'muck' of everything. If you give people a good experience (see Holidayworld) they will 'come' back.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007 3:57 PM
LOL, to even call the ride at Cypress by the name "flying scooters" does a disservice to every other ride out there by that name. It's a ground-level Chance Aviator... ;)

Funny thing, I believe that the CG ride was actually "built" by M-V. They should stick to coasters...

This weekend I hope to *finally* get more laps on Starliner (although I'll miss the view of the Gulf).

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