What Happened to Cypress Gardens

Botanical gardens

Fans of the attraction in Winter Haven, Florida may wonder "what happened to Cypress Gardens?"

What Happened to Cypress Gardens?

On September 23, 2009, Cypress Gardens and Splash Island Waterpark closed for business officially. The park, which celebrated the history of Florida and the historical garden located within the amusement park's 145 acres went bankrupt. Land South Adventures, LLC, the management company that owned Cypress Gardens, exhausted numerous possibilities for lessees, purchasers and investors.

The property was purchased by the Merlin Entertainment Group late in 2009. In January, 2010, Merlin Entertainment Groups announced the opening of Legoland Florida on the site of the former Cypress Gardens. The new owners plan to incorporate some of the older rides with the new, honoring the history of the park and maintaining the gardens, which gave them their name.

History of Cypress Gardens

In 1936, Cypress Gardens opened as a botanical preserve. At the heart of Cypress Gardens is this preserve with a magnificent Cypress tree. The historical garden remains a prominent feature of the landscape despite numerous changes around it. The area became known as the Water Ski Capital of the World with more than 50 world records set and broken on the area lakes and regional water shows. The park was a popular destination, but when Walt Disney World opened in 1971, the Winter Haven based park began to feel the pinch on regional interest.

Rides and games were added over the years, but the park closed in 2003. With over 300 employees out of work on short notice, a grassroots movement began called Friends of Cypress Gardens. With a focused fund raising effort, the group was able to raise 13 million dollars in an effort to save the park.

In 2004, it was purchased by Georgia theme park owner Kent Buescher. He added a broader range of rides and attractions. In 2006, his company filed for bankruptcy, throwing Cypress Gardens' fate up in the air once more. A new company, Land South Adventures, LLC purchased it at a bankruptcy auction. They reopened the parks and continued until a temporary closure in 2008. When the park reopened for 2009, all the animals were gone and most of the rides were shut down. The company operated the Gardens and splash park as separate tickets.

Unfortunately, a declining economy led to the park's final closure in 2009 and eventual sale to the Merlin Entertainment Group.

Popular Rides at Cypress Gardens

While the new Legoland Florida will incorporate at least one of the former roller coasters, Cypress Gardens hosted a large number of them over the years including:

  • Fiesta Express - A kid coaster
  • Okeechobee Rampage - A junior coaster
  • Swamp Thing - Suspended roller coaster
  • Triple Hurricane - Classic ACE winning roller coaster
  • Galaxy Spin - Whirling roller coaster

What happened to Cypress Gardens? More than seven decades of history, world records and famous visitors are a testament to the park's popularity and fame. Unfortunately, a poor economy and declining tourism contributed to the park's final fate. Even with the promise of incorporation of classic rides and some of the landscape, the part it played in regional and state history has ended.

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