24 September 2009 by Bureau News
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Cypress Gardens, which reigned as Florida’s grandest theme park in the days before Disney, has shut down while its owners try to sell the attraction.
The 73-year-old park, known for water-skiing shows, lush flower gardens and Southern belles in hoop dresses, was shuttered Wednesday after years of sagging attendance and ownership changes.
The current owner, Land South Adventures, said the park was no longer financially viable. The company said in a statement it “has explored numerous management frameworks and exhausted every possible approach to keep the park running in its traditional form.”
The company said it was negotiating with several potential buyers.
Cypress Gardens, once a must-see for Florida visitors, was opened in 1936 by Dick and Julie Pope, and the family sold it in 1985. The property has been bought and sold several times since.
It was closed in 2003, then changed hands under a complicated deal that involved help from state and local government and a nonprofit conservation group. In 2004, it was hit by three hurricanes, and the owners were unable to reach a settlement with an insurance company to cover damages. The current owners bought it in October 2007 for $16.8 million.
The park, in the small town of Winter Haven southwest of Orlando, was closed again in November 2008 for renovations and opened in March, featuring its traditional botanical gardens, water park, water ski shows and concerts, but without the animal attractions and rides.
Cypress Gardens had about 100 employees when it closed Wednesday, down from 700 to 800 in its heyday. GO BACK