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|Cypress Gardens Getting New Management Team
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January 02, 2008
The new owners of Cypress Gardens anounced this afternoon that
management of the attraction is being turned over from former owner
Kent Buescher to Baker Leisure Group of Orlando.
An announcement from the park
described Baker Leisure Group as one of the premiere consulting and
management specialists in the themed attractions industry.
The announcement by owners Rob Harper and Brian Philpot was made during a 2 p.m. news conference held at Cypress Gardens.
change does not affect the attraction’s operating staff, but replaces
the contractor that had been managing Cypress Gardens on interim
basis," the two said in a press release.
The announcement is
coming on the park's 72nd anniversary. The state's first theme park was
opened on Jan. 2, 1936. The new owners purchased it in October.
are fortunate to have Baker Leisure Group at Cypress Gardens. They are
one of the premier management companies in the world and based in
Central Florida. Cypress Gardens needs a strong community presence, an
element the Baker group understands,” said Harper and Philpot.
Leisure Group has handled assignments ranging from the popular Coca-
Cola Olympic City at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games to planning,
opening and managing Al Shallal, Saudi Arabia one of the largest theme
parks in the Middle East. The firm was founded in 1988 by 40-year theme
park and attractions management specialist Steve Baker.
to Cypress Gardens will notice a more lively, interactive, engaging
atmosphere as we move forward," said Steve Baker, whose company has
assumed operational control of the attraction.
"We provide the
best overall guest experience possible," he said. " The changes will
range from cosmetic to cultural. Cypress Gardens enthusiasts will
recognize and applaud the changes and potential guests, particularly
families living in the fast-growing Polk County metropolitan area, will
have plenty of reasons to want to visit the attraction for the first
time or make a return visit."
Baker said operational changes
will address intangibles such as more extensive staff training, revised
internal operating procedures such as queue line management and more
accessible food and beverage service, as well as more visible changes.
Gardens, which became Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in 2004, has been
in trouble since the attraction was devastated by the trio of
hurricanes that hit Polk County in August and September of 2004.
Buescher bought the park for $7 million before the hurricanes hit. He
was seen as the savior of the historic attraction that had trouble
attracting enough customers to pay the bills.
Buescher had plans to improve the park and broaden its customer base, but the hurricanes hit before he could reopen the park.
It was a blow that he never recovered from.
2007 he was about $135 million in debt for both Cypress Gardens and a
second amusement park he owns, Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta,
Buescher sold both Cypress Gardens and Wild Adventures after filling for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Philpot and Harper, who own Land South Holdings in Mulberry, bought Cypress Gardens in October for $16.8 million.
company has a reputation for flipping property for a quick profit,
which fueled speculation that Cypress Gardens could become condominiums
or a commercial development - or both.
That can't be the case because the state has placed restrictions on the land that prohibits development other than for a park.
new owners have insisted they're in Cypress Garden for the long haul.
They say the business plan for Cypress Gardens was a good one, but
impossible to execute because of the mountain of debt. That debt no
In an unusual move, Philpot and Harper kept Buescher on as the chief executive officer of Cypress Gardens.