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Cypress Gardens Adventure Park Update

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16 April 2004

Cypress Gardens postpones date for reopening

By Christopher Sherman

Sentinel Staff Writer

Reopening Cypress Gardens after a year's hibernation has not gone as smoothly as new owner Kent Buescher had hoped, but the first truckloads of roller-coaster track are scheduled to arrive Monday even as the best-case opening date is pushed back to July 1.

Slightly more than a year after the Winter Haven landmark abruptly closed its gates, Buescher will unveil his master plan Monday for the 68-year-old attraction that will reopen as Cypress Gardens Adventure Park.

The owner of Valdosta, Ga.'s Wild Adventures theme park wants to capture as much of Central Florida's July and August business as possible before things die down as kids head back to school, but he will not rush the opening and sacrifice what he thinks the attraction's fans are expecting.

That includes the manicured gardens, water-ski and ice shows and Southern belles, as well as the thrill rides that Buescher is betting will give the Old Florida attraction a new lease on life.

"If I can't open with all the roller coasters and water rides, I won't open," Buescher said.

When he closed on the $20.5 million three-way deal Feb. 24, capping a successful community effort to resuscitate the attraction, Buescher's goal of opening by Memorial Day was already looking like a stretch. Now July 1 is the goal, but if unexpected challenges continue to arise, the opening could be delayed until Oct. 1, Buescher said.

Termite damage to the park's buildings has been more extensive than originally thought and some will have to be demolished. Crews have been working in recent weeks to replace leaking roofs and repair electrical utilities, he said.

Four roller coasters and a couple of water rides -- the kind you get wet on but don't need a bathing suit for -- will be part of the rejuvenated park's first phase. A full-fledged water park will come next year.

The coasters will occupy the current parking area so as to not interfere with the botanical gardens' tranquillity. There will be a "kiddie" ride and three moderate-adult roller coasters -- two steel and one wooden, Buescher said.

Cypress Gardens Adventure Park will open with a new entrance and parking area, both south of their current locations.

All of the attraction's three dozen new rides were confirmed and ordered by Feb. 10 -- two weeks before Buescher's purchase was final -- and eight to 10 of them are already waiting in storage in Central Florida, Buescher said.

Buescher has said an adult day pass will sell for $26.95, $8 less than it was when the attraction closed last April. A child's ticket will be $22.95, and the price of an annual pass will depend on when the park reopens. Each day pass will include a second day free.

People can view Buescher's plans at the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce at 5:30 p.m. Monday. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP at 863-293-2138 by noon Monday.

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I'm so glad that Cypress Gardens is adding more excitement. This will help the non-Orlando tourism. Isn't the park located near Bok Tower? They're in the same region, right? I want to visit Bok Tower and the new Cypress Gardens.

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Yes, they are about 15 miles apart. Now there's a large Mall, State Farm's regional headquarters, Home Depot, K-mart, shopping centers, and several suburban tract home developments between them. If you think that's bad, just imagine if the East-West Expressway (rejected 10 years ago) would have been built. Its route would have came within a mile of Bok Tower and two of Cypress Gardens.

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I don't know if the East-West Expressway would be a bad thing or a good thing. I mean, the beauty and tranquility would be destroyed, but there really isn't a convenient way to those parks, like Orlando has. (not that I-4 is a "model expressway") lol But U.S. 27 is like the main way to Lake Wales, right?

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The idea behind the East-West Expressway was a good one. It would have went from the the Turnpike, somewhere in Osceola County, to the Polk Parkway, thus providing commuters with an alternative limited access route helping to relieve congestion on I-4. However, knowing the Polk County commission sprawl would have definately swallowed its route, if it were built.

But now that I think about it, the sprawl is still growing so they probably should have just built it.

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LOL, I bet they'll regret the traffic. I sure hope that Cypress Gardens becomes successful, like Wild Adventures. It reminds me of one of the scenarios in Roller Coaster Tycoon. Evergreen Gardens, where you turn a huge botanical garden into a theme park. It would be awesome if you could find some pics of the new and improved park. I'm looking for some, but having no luck. Hopefully, the Cypress Gardens website will reopen soon, too.

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I'm really excited about the future of Cypress Gardens. I think its a great move, to move the entrance and parking south, while putting the rides in the old parking lot. That will help traffic flow a lot better as well as give a more impressive view of the park from Cypress Gardens Blvd.

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