A historic theme park was saved from development Tuesday when Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet voted to spend $11 million to protect it, but not everyone is pleased with the direction the park will take.
Florida's first theme park closed in April, prompting a public outcry that was heard all the way to the state capitol. Now, in a complicated and unusual financial plan, the state will put up $11 million, Polk County $2.5 million and $7 million will come from a theme park owner to save the park, which county officials say is an economic necessity.
"There is no denying that we need the economic impact in Polk County," says Paul Senft, Polk County Commissioner.
Wild Adventures owner Kent Buescher promised to keep the garden’s character alive.
"We will preserve the essence of what Cypress Gardens means to all those with fond memories," says Kent Buescher, theme park owner.
Those promises brought a standing ovation from the audience, but not everyone was applauding the sight of roller coasters coming to the once serene gardens.
"You could pay a few more millions of dollars and the state could own Cypress Gardens for ever and take it out of private ownership," says David Siegel, Investment Manager.
The governor and Cabinet never considered buying the whole park. They voted unanimously to put up the $11million to save the 150-acre site from development. Now, the new owner says the tough part begins.
"I believe that the gardens are going to have to be made relevant, and we hope to be able to do that," says Kent Buescher
And for those who lost jobs, the sun was shining again.
"This is the happiest day we have had in nine months, knowing that it will never be developed," says former belle Emma Bowman.
The new owners are shooting for an early summer reopening. Cypress Gardens' new owner plans to spend $36 million over the next two years, renovating the nearly 70-year-old park. He also plans three $5 million in investment each year there after.
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