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Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, Florida, has closed for the winter and when it reopens in March will be minus amusement rides and zoo. South Holdings LLC, the company that now owns the 72-year-old park, plans a renewed focus on three areas including the ski show that was the park's original draw, the botanical gardens, and the waterpark that opened a few years ago.
"The operating expense of running 38 amusement rides, a zoo, the botanical gardens, a ski show and a waterpark are considerable," notes Cypress Gardens co-owner Rob Harper. "It is obvious the park cannot successfully function as four parks in one."
The sale of the rides will now be brokered by a group including Rides-4-U, Ital International, Zamperla and Chance-Morgan. The move to eliminate them from the park and expand the waterpark came after what the owners say was months of exhaustive analysis. They now plan to add a display featuring the history of Cypress Gardens.
Founded in 1936, the park has undergone several changes in ownership. In 2004, Adventure Parks Group, owned by Kent Buescher, purchased Cypress Gardens park for $7 million, and invested in new rides, new shows and the waterpark. But the park was devastated by debt caused by the hurricanes of 2004, and Buescher was never fully reimbursed by his insurer.
Harper, together with Brian Philpot, trading as Land South Holdings, bought Cypress Gardens in a bankruptcy sale in September 2007 for $16.8 million. They than slashed opening from seven to three days a week. This fall they cut hours and discounted tickets, but ultimately it wasn't enough.