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07-30-2008, 09:17 AM
Click here: Cypress Gardens Decision Shared by Many Parks | theledger.com | The Ledger | Lakeland, FL
http://www.theledger.com/article/20080729/NEWS/807280503/1410&title=Cypress_Gardens_Decision_Shared_by_Many_Park s

Cypress Gardens Decision Shared by Many Parks

By Kyle Kennedy

Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 12:50 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 5:34 a.m.
WINTER HAVEN | When Cypress Gardens Adventure Park begins closing on weekdays in September, it will join a number of amusement parks operating on a similar schedule in Florida and elsewhere.

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Industry observers say Cypress Gardens' decision is one typically made by parks that face thinning post-summer crowds, especially at a time of heightened economic pressures.

The Winter Haven attraction announced Sunday that it will limit its schedule to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after Labor Day.

"It's not at all unusual for parks to adjust their operating schedules at any time based on the trends of the business," said Dave Mandt, spokesman for the Virginia-based International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. "Many, many parks in the U.S. after Labor Day do go to a weekends-only operating schedule."

Attendance often slows in September as families finish summer vacations and students return to school, Mandt said, making it less feasible for parks to stay open throughout the week.

In addition, many seasonal employees are high school or college students who are unavailable on weekdays during the school year, Mandt said.

Cypress Gardens spokeswoman Haley Kish said the park has no firm plans for scheduling beyond September and is focusing on large weekend events to draw crowds, such as an autograph day with Tampa Bay Lightning players and a promotion for Girl Scouts.

But Gary Slade, editor of the trade publication "Amusement Today," said Cypress Gardens doesn't have the same drawing power of its competition in Orlando.

"That is common for smaller properties to go to a weekend operation as a way to save on staff and operating costs. Cypress Gardens isn't there on International Drive so it is a little out of the tourists' radius," Slade said. "If Cypress Gardens was 30 minutes closer to the other tourist attractions in Orlando, it probably would be a different story and they'd be open every day.''

Slade said the Six Flags chain of amusement parks has cut post-summer weekday hours at some locations in Texas and California.

In Florida, regional attractions such as Weeki Wachee in Spring Hill and Silver Springs in Ocala operate on limited weekday schedules during September and October.

Industry consultant Dennis Speigel said that because of high gas prices and other economic factors, even large attractions such as the new Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, S.C., have had to scale back their weekday off-season hours.

Amusement parks should prove resilient overall this year, but cutbacks are never a good sign, Speigel said.

"When you start cutting back hours and days from your original plan it can be symptomatic of where the business is," said Speigel, president of Cincinnati-based International Theme Park Services Inc.

"Cypress falls at the bottom of the step ladder as it relates to attractions in Florida," he said. "At one time it was the only game in town, but times have changed.

"If they're off at this point in time in their attendance, it would make sense they would think about cutting back operations in the fall," said Speigel.

The Gardens' Kish said there "will be an impact" on the park's staff of roughly 500 people, 80 percent of whom are part-time.

"There's going to be a minimal effect ... it will be just retail and food" employees, Tish said.

But one part-time employee, who asked that his name not be printed, said park officials began scaling back hours for part-time employees last month.

Many staff members have already begun looking for work elsewhere, the employee said.

"Everybody has basically been shaved right down to nothing. Now it's going to get cut even worse," he said.

[ Kyle Kennedy can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7584. ]

07-30-2008, 05:44 PM
Who's thinking of going ? :confused: