Boardwalk and Baseball

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Boardwalk and Baseball
Circus World antique railway car- Orlando, Florida (5786672528).jpg
The antique Barnum and Bailey train cars that housed a display of circus memorabilia from Circus World
LocationHaines City, Florida
CoordinatesCoordinates: 28°13′53″N 81°38′36″W / 28.23147°N 81.643234°W / 28.23147; -81.643234
ThemeBaseball
nostalgic theme old Coney Island-style[1]
OwnerHarcourt Brace Jovanovich Park Group (1987–1989)
Busch Entertainment Corporation (1989–1990)
OpenedApril 1987 (1987-04)
ClosedJanuary 17, 1990 (1990-01-17)
Previous namesCircus World
Operating seasonSummer
Area135 acres[1]
Attractions
Total32[1]
StatusClosed

Boardwalk and Baseball was a theme park built near Haines City, Florida, on the east corner of the intersection of US 27 and Interstate 4.[1] It replaced Circus World at the same location, and was owned by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Park Group (now Harcourt, a division of Reed Elsevier), it opened in April 1987, and closed January 17, 1990.

The park recycled many of Circus World's rides and exhibits; the petting zoos were removed, the rides and shows were rethemed, and Baseball City Stadium was built on the site. There were several exhibits that borrowed artifacts from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. HBJ attracted the Kansas City Royals from Fort Myers, Florida, to make Baseball City Stadium their new spring training home and the site of their Class A Florida State League affiliate, the Baseball City Royals, they also had a Rookie-level affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, one of two lowest level minor leagues in the U.S. (along with the Arizona League).[2]

In addition, ESPN taped a quiz bowl-style game show, Boardwalk and Baseball's Super Bowl of Sports Trivia, on the site, it aired in 1988 and 1989 and featured single-elimination tournaments of three-person teams representing U.S. colleges and universities. Chris Berman was the host. Washington State University won the 1988 tournament.[3]

Although the park was considered superior to its predecessor, it was predicted to fail by industry observers at the grand opening, its relatively standard rides were considered no match as a Walt Disney World competitor. Industry observers were proved correct, as the project was quickly falling into financial ruin within 18 months of its grand opening, at which point, employee layoffs and reduced hours were used to try to cut costs. To further limit expenses, the park closed before sunset for almost the entire year, rendering its antique style gas lighting (that cost over $1 million to install) useless.

History[edit]

Jim Monaghan sold Circus World for stock to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich on May 10, 1986. HBJ, which had just bought several parks including the SeaWorld parks and Cypress Gardens, had a new idea for the area, and closed the park at opening time that day to rebuilding it into Boardwalk and Baseball;[4] the company expected to have the park open in December 1986. With Circus World's poor reputation, Boardwalk and Baseball was expected by HBJ to restore the park's stature, and would have the expertise available through its purchase of other theme parks, Sea World and Cypress Gardens, the year before.[5] HBJ spent $50 million transforming the park and adding the baseball stadium.[6]

The Class A Florida State League Royal affiliate was purchased by HBJ in early 1987 with the team to move here.[7]

Boardwalk and Baseball opened in April 1987 with two baseball diamonds.[7] Ted Williams, Don Drysdale, and Mel Allen participated in the opening day festivities.[8] In June, the three HBJ Orlando area parks offered three-day passes with one day at each park, priced below Walt Disney World combo tickets.[1] Attendance in 1988 was 1.35 million, but dropped 24% in 1989 to 1.03 million.[6] In August 1989, HBJ put its theme parks up for sale as a group.[9]

The first season of "Super Bowl of Sports Trivia" was filmed over five days at a studio at the theme park in January 1988.[10] Baseball City Stadium opened for its first event, the seventh annual Pizza Hut All-Star Softball game, on February 7, 1988 and televised live on NBC.[11]

Decline and closure[edit]

HBJ sold its theme park assets (which included SeaWorld and Cypress Gardens) to Busch Entertainment Corporation in September 1989 due to mounting debt, and they closed the park on January 17, 1990 a few hours early; the stadium would continue its operations, while the park and stadium were up for sale. The KC Royals had a spring training contract until 2002 and the Baseball City Royals would also continue regular play at the stadium. With 876 employees at closure, the park was one of Polk County's largest employers.[6] Most of it was demolished except for the stadium and a building that held an IMAX theatre (the very first one at Circus World); the Baseball City Royals (FSL) were sold following the 1992 season and moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, becoming the Daytona Cubs, where they remain to this day. The Gulf Coast League Royals, who had moved at the same time to Ft. Myers, returned in 2000 for their final three years in Florida before being replaced by the Arizona League Royals; the Kansas City Royals moved their spring training home and entire Florida operations department to Surprise, Arizona in 2003. The stadium and theatre were demolished soon afterward.[12]

After sitting idle for over a decade, the site was sold to developer Victor Posner in 2001. Posner Park, a large retail complex with several big box stores, opened on the site in 2008, eliminating the final traces of the long-gone park.[13]

Attractions[edit]

  • Baseball City Stadium plus five other Ballparks, hosts two daily ballgames. Baseball City Royals, a KC farm team, was the professional home team. Additional games are by amateurs including high school and college teams. Starting in 1988, Kansas City Royals held their spring training and exhibition games moving here from Fort Myers.[1]
  • batting cages[1]
  • bullpen, test your pitching skills[1]
  • Faceball Card Studio, have your own baseball card printed with pictures take in any major league jersey
  • Fielding test[1]
  • The Hurricane, a main attraction at the park, this was a wooden coaster and was carried over from Circus World. In 1990, the coaster was sold and moved to Magic Springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas and was operational there in 1992.[14]
  • ``Taste of Cooperstown`` exhibit, displays on loan items from the National Baseball Hall of Fame[1]
  • theater, shows the movie, Great Moments in Baseball[1]

Super Bowl of Sports Trivia[edit]

Boardwalk and Baseball's Super Bowl of Sports Trivia was a sports trivia show in a College Bowl format taped at a Boardwalk and Baseball studio by Ohlmeyer Communications and broadcast on ESPN from 1988—[10] 1989.

The show was hosted by Chris Berman and taped in January 1988 over a five day period its 31 episodes of its first season.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Allen, Jean (June 14, 1987). "New Parks Try For Disney Shutout". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  2. ^ "GCL Royals - BR Bullpen".
  3. ^ Murphy, Brian (2002). "The Super Bowl ... of Sports Trivia". espn.com. Page 2.
  4. ^ Vaughan, Vicki (May 14, 1986). "Circus World Sold And Closed". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  5. ^ Vaughan, Vicki (May 19, 1986). "Making Circus World Property A Winner Observers: Hbj Skilled At Enlivening Properties". Orlando Sentinel. tribune Publishing. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "Baseball theme park strikes out". Gainesville Sun. New York Times Company. AP. January 19, 1990. p. 4B. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Clarke, Jay (April 26, 1987). "Ah, Ya Can`t Beat Fun At The Old Theme Park". Chicago Tribune. tribunedigital. Knight-Ridder Newspapers. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  8. ^ "Theme park dedicated". Sioux City Journal. Sioux City, Iowa. Associated Press. April 6, 1987. Archived from the original on October 30, 2018. Retrieved October 18, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  9. ^ Strother, Susan G. (August 31, 1989). "Two Harcourt Theme Parks Failing To Attract Any Suitors". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Chad, Norman (March 24, 1988). "What Does ESPN Stand For? Check Berman's Trivia Blitz". Washington Post. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  11. ^ Buck, Durwood (February 8, 1988). "baseball-city-stadium Boggs helps AL beat NL in softball". Lakeland Ledger. pp. 1D, 5D. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  12. ^ "Amusement Parks of Yesteryear: Boardwalk and Baseball in Haines City, Florida".
  13. ^ Bouffard, Kevin (2007-05-23). "Penney, Target to Anchor New Site". TheLedger.com. Retrieved 2014-04-29.
  14. ^ Gilbert, Paul (May 12, 1985). "Amusement Parks Upstage Each Other For Coaster Crowd". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved July 16, 2018.

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