Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sabrina's Brochure Spotlight: Cypress Gardens Adventure Park 2006

When I first picked up this brochure, I had to do a double take to make sure that this was indeed Cypress Gardens and not Busch Gardens. The length, style, and format are curiously similar to those of the more recent Busch brochures. Same third party designer? Probably. But although Busch Entertainment Corporation actually did own Cypress Gardens for a good six or so years, that era was ancient history by the time 2006 rolled around.

The year 2006 marked the midway point of Cypress Gardens' brief stint as an amusement park, during which time it was known as "Cypress Gardens Adventure Park". It's no wonder that experiment went awry--Apparently the park would only allow guests to ride the roller coasters if they were wearing Cypress Gardens apparel!! Or maybe that rule only applied to Swamp Thing...This is going to require further investigation.

Cypress Gardens [Adventure Park] celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2006. When "Florida's Original Theme Park" opened in 1936, it consisted of nothing more than a botanical garden. If you'd like to learn even more about this park's history, you are in luck because this deluxe brochure even includes a time line! So if you are a park history junkie as I am, you will definitely want to take note of the various milestones featured at the bottom of each page.

A-HA!!! So my theory is confirmed: No Cypress Gardens garb = no ride for you! (Although apparently each walking park advertisement was permitted to bring one plainclothes guest along for the ride.)

But on a more serious note, it is a shame that Cypress Gardens' newest management team decided to abandon all these wonderful rides. On the one hand you could say that the park is returning to its roots, which is not a bad thing. On the other hand, I see no reason why old and new cannot coexist harmoniously. But at the end of the day it was a business decision, and I can't really fault them for it. Better for the park to survive sans rides and animals than to be overextended and end up shuttered.

Splash Island Water Park, which survived all the recent management changes and is still alive and well, made its debut in 2005. If the name sounds familiar, that's because the Cypress Gardens of 2004-2007 had a cousin up in Valdosta, GA [read: Wild Adventures] which also features a water park by the name of "Splash Island".

And while we're on the subject of names, how come Cypress Gardens can get away with having a water slide by the name of "Voodoo" when a particular park right down the street from me caught the devil for it? I know, I know--It's "Voodoo Plunge" and it's not the same and yada yada yada. But I'm gonna complain anyway!

Did I say "nothing more than a botanical garden" a few pages back? That's the understatement of the century! These lush gardens are Cypress Gardens' trademark, and we should all be grateful that Kent Buescher saved this park from complete annihilation back in 2004 so that this wonderful tradition could be preserved. Note the "southern belle" in the middle of photo, another Cypress Gardens tradition!

Let's put aside the fact that we're all completely freaked out by the kid with the clown face (admit it!) and focus on the granddaddy of all Cypress Gardens' live entertainment: The water skiing shows! This long-running and beloved show is certainly a unique attraction as far as park entertainment goes.

In addition to the rides and the gardens and the entertainment (oh my!), Cypress Gardens also featured a rather elaborate shopping area--Jubilee Junction--complete with specialty shops and even a model train exhibit. This area is notably absent from the current park map, which leads me to believe that it went the way of the dinosaur (not to mention the rides and animals).

Whatever you do, do not look at this 2006 map and then jump over to the Cypress Gardens web site and look at the 2009 map. It will depress you. Unless you are a huge fan of parking lots, in which case you will love the new look. [Yes, that's sarcasm.] It's such a shame too, because the Cypress Gardens of 2006 truly had something for everybody. I guess you could say it was simultaneously the park's greatest asset and its greatest downfall, thus prompting the "downsizing".

What the...Now how did my 2006 Wild Adventures brochure become hopelessly entangled with my 2006 Cypress Gardens brochure? And more importantly, when did Wild Adventures follow suit and adopt that whole "park t-shirts only" policy?!!

Well as it turns out, I'm not crazy. [Hard to believe, I know!] This page really does appear in my Cypress Gardens brochure. I've alluded to it several times already, but during this period both parks were owned by Adventure Parks Group (which, in turn, was owned by Kent Buescher). So why not encourage all those northerners to make a stop at Valdosta on the way home?

Note the reference to Shaka Zulu River Adventure. Once upon a time, Wild Adventures had plans to install a log flume ride which had been relocated from the defunct Miracle Strip Amusement Park. But as we now know from our interview with current Wild Adventures GM Bob Montgomery, this attraction was never built and is no longer on the radar.

Sandwiched between Orlando and Tampa, Cypress Gardens complements Florida's "amusement district" nicely. It may not be an "adventure park" anymore, but its rich history and tradition make it well worth the stop.


Ron Toomer Fan said...

And the girl in the third photo isn't even at Cypress Gardens. She's riding the Cheetah at Wild Adventures

Chris said...

Rapid expansion seems to be a curse. It's not rocket science, though. Cases in point- SFGA's now removed rides from their 25+ ride expansion, Six Flags Worlds of Adventure, Cypress Gardens, Celebration City...

It's (likely) much better for parks to stagger their investment over multiple years.

NewsPlusNotes said...

Cypress Gardens as a ride park was a fun idea but I'm not sure the market was ever really there for more rides... I'm all for properties growing and changing with the times but there's an exception to every rule - Cypress just might be one of them in that it shouldn't have ever tired to keep up, instead focus on the classic charm the place has. An "if it ain't broke..." sorta deal.

Hopefully the 'bump in the road' that the expansions now are won't derail the park for good!

And great brochure, Sabrina!