Boardwalk and Baseball
The antique Barnum and Bailey train cars that housed a display of circus memorabilia from Circus World
|Location||Haines City, Florida|
nostalgic theme old Coney Island-style
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1987-1989)|
Busch Entertainment Corporation (1989-1990)
|Closed||January 17, 1990|
|Previous names||Circus World|
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. It replaced Circus World at the same location, and was owned by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (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).
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.
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 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.
Jim Monaghan sold Circus World for stock to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich on Tuesday, May 10, 1986 at 3:50 a.m. 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. HBJ spend $50 million transforming the park and adding the baseball stadium.
Boardwalk and Baseball opened in April 1987. The three HBJ Orlando area parks offered in June 1987 a three day passes with one day at each park bellow Walt Disney World combo tickets. Attendance in 1988 was 1.35 million, but dropped 24% in 1989 to 1.03 million. In August 1989, HBJ put its theme parks up for sale as a group.
Decline and closure
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. 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.
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.
- Ballparks, two, hosts daily ballgames. Florida State League 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 here from Fort Myers.
- batting cages
- bullpen, test your pitching skills
- Faceball Card Studio, have your own baseball card printed with pictures take in any major league jersey
- Fielding test
- 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.
- ``Taste of Cooperstown`` exhibit, displays on loan items from the National Baseball Hall of Fame
- theater, shows the movie, Great Moments in Baseball
- Allen, Jean (June 14, 1987). "New Parks Try For Disney Shutout". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
- "GCL Royals - BR Bullpen".
- Murphy, Brian (2002). "The Super Bowl ... of Sports Trivia". espn.com. Page 2.
- Vaughan, Vicki (May 14, 1986). "Circus World Sold And Closed". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
- "Baseball theme park strikes out". Gainesville Sun. New York Times Company. AP. January 19, 1990. p. 4B. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
- Strother, Susan G. (August 31, 1989). "Two Harcourt Theme Parks Failing To Attract Any Suitors". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishng. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
- "Amusement Parks of Yesteryear: Boardwalk and Baseball in Haines City, Florida".
- Bouffard, Kevin (2007-05-23). "Penney, Target to Anchor New Site". TheLedger.com. Retrieved 2014-04-29.
- Gilbert, Paul (May 12, 1985). "Amusement Parks Upstage Each Other For Coaster Crowd". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved July 16, 2018.