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Boardwalk and Baseball - Haines City - DEFUNCT - BJ105 Radio Orlando, FL


Mar 15, 2021 Attractions 0 Comments

Boardwalk and Baseball was a theme park built near Haines City, Florida, at the south-east corner of the Interstate 4-US 27 interchange.[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.

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 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. The stadium would continue its operations, while the park and stadium were up for sale. The Kansas City 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.