LOST PARKS: Boardwalk and Baseball

Today we're going to talk about a LOST THEME PARK:

The Boardwalk and Baseball.

Not many know that it even existed, but it was a fairly big theme park, situated in Polk county (35 minutes from the city of Orlando, 25 minutes from Walt Disney World), near the place where Legoland Florida is situated.

Here's a bit of history of the park (from Wikipedia, but attentively revised by the OTPN staff):

"Boardwalk and Baseball was a theme park built near Haines City, Florida, United States, on the east corner of the intersection of US 27 and Interstate 4. It replaced Circus World (a smaller circus-themed, country fair-like park) at the same location, and was owned by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. It opened on February 14, 1987, and closed January 17, 1990.

The park recycled many of the rides and exhibits of the original Circus World. The petting zoos were removed, the rides and shows were re-themed, and they built Baseball City Stadium 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.

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

Although the park was considered superior to its predecessor Circus World, Boardwalk and Baseball was predicted to fail by industry observers at the April 1987 grand opening. The park's standard carnival rides were considered no match for a Disney competitor. The Orlando Sentinel quoted both employees and industry experts who attributed its closure in 1990 to inept management by CEO Richard Howard. The park was quickly run into financial ruins within 18 months of its grand opening. At that point, employee layoffs and reduced park hours were used to try to cut costs. The park closed before sunset for almost the entire year, rendering the costly antique style gas lighting useless (that cost over $1 million to install in 1987).

Howard spent millions building the ultimate baseball stadium for a Single A baseball team, yet invested almost nothing in new rides and attractions throughout the park's life. The park had the exact same roster of rides and attractions from opening day in April 1987 to its closure in 1990. Permits and plans for new roller coasters were made but never implemented. The fatal flaw of the park was a stagnant attraction roster and an advertising budget 1/15th of its closest rival (Disney) -- the only ride different from the previous Circus World theme park was the Grand Rapids flume. Had the new steel coaster that was planned been built, Boardwalk and Baseball would likely not have gone down in history as the first corporate theme park to close (as many observers suggest in its Orlando Sentinel retrospective article). After all, the park was considered to have the only "real" roller coasters in the Orlando area (Disney only had junior coasters and this was a decade before Islands of Adventure was built). The Hurricane wooden coaster and Shuttle Loop coaster were significant roller coasters by 1987 standards, but the $25 million dollar renovation made in 1987 didn't pay for a single attraction competitive with Disney.

HBJ sold its theme park assets (which included SeaWorld and Cypress Gardens) to Busch Entertainment Corporation on September 28, 1989, and Busch closed Boardwalk and Baseball on January 17, 1990. Most of the park was demolished except for the stadium and one building that held an IMAX theatre (the very first building at Circus World). The stadium and the theatre were demolished soon afterward.

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

What a sad ending for a theme park...
The thing that surprises me is that the Busch Corporation didn't even consider to give it a try, demolishing the park as soon as they could, while maintaining Cypress Gardens (that would later be sold) and Busch gardens (until 2009).

Here you are some pictures of the park, courtesy of DIZZY RAMBLER :

Even Captain EO ehm... Michael Jackson went to the park, only to ride the Hurricane:


  1. An interesting fact about the Florida Hurricane is that it was once named "Michael Jackson's Thrill Coaster" http://rcdb.com/417.htm

  2. Boardwalk and Baseball only existed for two years and eight months. Never visited the attraction but drove by it a few times. I think competion from Disney in Orlando put a tight squeeze on the theme park. There are a number of Central attractions that are no longer around. HArd to make it against Disney World. Bob Apr. 23, 2012

  3. Used to go to Circus World and Boardwalk and Baseball when I was a kid. Great park. Was sad that it ended that way. It should have survived.

  4. Since I worked at Boardwalk and Baseball from open til close, I know very much about the place. I worked in a management position. I see that there is a picture of Michael Jackson. Actually he visited the park many times, after hours. I was one of the staff that escorted him around. He did enjoy many of the rides, actually. I myself strapped him into the swings. He arrived in a white limo which drove right into the the area of the park he was interested in. He also had a lot of children, many ages, and his body guards. He was a very kind and soft spoken man. Terry, kiddie city.


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