Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nametag archaeology: extinct theme parks of Florida

The year is 1973. The owners of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus created a winter home for their organization in Florida. They also built a circus-themed resort, with all the trappings of the circus, including clowns, animals, and a huge striped big top. What did they name this place? Cirus World, of course!

This is where things get kind of sticky. The owners of Ringling Brothers, the Felds, sold Circus World to the Mattel Corportation, the same company that makes Barbie and Ken Dolls. Mattel added roller coasters and other theme park attractions to compete with Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in nearby Orlando, but it really didn't work. Mattel held on until 1986, when they sold the property to an investor named Jim Monaghan, who in turn sold it to Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich. HBJ had also recently purchased other properties in Florida, including Sea World and Cypress Gardens. HBJ, however didn't think there was much future in the Circus theme. So, the clowns and elephants were fired, the tent folded up, and in 1987 the property reopened as..

Boardwalk and Baseball!

The former circus theme was transformed into a shrine for baseball. A new practice field and spring training facilities for the Kansas City Royals was built, and exhibits and relics from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown were brought to the property. A vintage seaside boardwalk was build, complete with gas lighting and authentic wood boardwalk. However, the park was not a financial success, and in 1989 HBJ sold its theme park assets to Busch Entertainment. In January 1990, Boardwalk and Baseball closed, and the park was demolished. The property sat abandoned for ten years, until it was reclaimed for retail and residential space.

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