The experiment that turned the beautiful, but dying, Cypress Gardens into an amusement park may be nearing an end. It pains me to write this rumor, but I completely understand the reasoning behind it. Winter Haven is just too far off the beaten path to be supported by tourists, especially when gas costs are high and with Disney’s ability to keep guests on resort property for the whole vacation. Unfortunately the local economy isn’t strong enough to support the park either.
So with IAAPA in town in a few days the park will be shopping its free-standing amusement park attractions to the highest bidder. Apparently, they’ve had appraisals done and already sold a few.
When this is all done, Cypress Gardens will become two separate gates; the old gardens, concert field, and zoo at one end and the water park with another. At that point it sounds like the gardens and zoo would only be open for special events and parties.
This is sad news for Central Florida, Winter Haven, and the people who have given so much to make this work. I don’t think they should give up on the concept of Cypress Gardens as a tourist destination. Unfortunately this incarnation just isn’t working.
I believe making the water park a separate admission is important so it can generate revenue even when the gardens can not. The parking situation will have to be reworked to make that happen. Right now that means selling or relocating some of the attractions on that end of the park. Selling them would provide some capital to help the park make it through the lean times and remain open on weekends until the summer season returns.
Let’s hope it does not have to get more severe than that.