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Wild Adventures theme park is sold, but fun will continue

Florida Times-Union

Original Article »

October 02, 2007

As more land in the South sees traditional uses make way for residential development, two recently-sold theme parks are expected to remain untouched.

Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Ga., and Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven will continue entertaining guests and employing more than 600 people, said Sara Sumner, spokeswoman for seller Adventure Park Group.

"We just need to let everybody know the future of both parks is very bright," Sumner said.

After hurricanes interrupted the refurbishment of Cypress Gardens in 2004, the financial strain for Adventure Park Group owners led to Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Georgia's Middle District Court.

Damage to the historic Florida park totaled $30 million, with insurance covering $24 million, Sumner said.

But delayed insurance-related payments prevented the private company from emerging from bankruptcy.

Even though it had to publicly auction both parks, neither employees nor the enjoyment of patrons will be affected.

"The intention with both sales and new owners is to the make the transition as seamless as possible and transparent to guests," Sumner said.

Herschend Family Entertainment Corp. on Friday purchased Wild Adventures for $34.5 million. The company owns, operates or partners in 17 properties in seven states, according to its Web site. Its holdings include a partnership with the owners of Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Land South Holdings LLC of Mulberry, Fla., will pay $16.8 million for Cypress Gardens when the sale closes Oct. 15.

Kent Buescher, Adventures Park Group CEO and Wild Adventures founder, will run Cypress Gardens as president and CEO.

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