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Cypress Gardens, Splash Island parks close


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Source: Orlando Sentinnel

 

Cypress Gardens, Splash Island parks close

By Jason Garcia and Sara K. Clarke

Sentinel Staff Writers

4:56 p.m. EDT, September 23, 2009

 

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Cypress Gardens shut down once again Wednesday, its owner saying it has exhausted "every possible approach" to keep the storied-but-struggling tourist attraction open.

 

The abrupt closing came just seven months after the region's oldest theme park -- once famed for its botanical gardens and Southern belles -- had reopened on a bet that it could succeed with a combination of scaled-back operations and cheaper ticket prices.

 

Owner Land South Holdings LLC, the Polk County investment firm that bought Cypress Gardens for $17 million at a bankruptcy auction in 2007, said in a statement that it could find no way "to keep the park running in its traditional form."

 

The company said it has begun negotiations with several potential buyers and lessees interested in acquiring all or parts of the property.

 

"We do not feel it is fair to our employees, the guests or the public to continue operations heading into the fall with the future of the property in flux," Land South said in the statement.

 

Founded in 1936, Cypress Gardens was the first theme park built in Central Florida. But unable to compete with the bigger, more modern resorts that followed in Orlando, it shut down in 2003. It reopened the next year with new owners but then went bankrupt in 2006.

 

Despite the protracted struggles, Rick Dantzler, a lawyer who represents Land South, said the owners still hope to find a way to get Cypress Gardens up and running again.

 

"The world is not the same today as it was 30 or 40 years ago," Dantzler said. "Coming up with a model that works in today's marketplace is a challenge."

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