ORLANDO, Florida – Central Florida attractions join Disney World in celebrating 50 historic years. Many Disney World visitors see other attractions while on vacation, with some business owners saying the theme parks have helped recruit quality employees.
âThe news of Disney’s arrival in Florida was certainly the most welcome news Florida attractions have ever heard,â Cypress Garden founder Dick Pope said in 1965. âAll of our attractions believe it to be. is the greatest thing that has ever happened to them. “
Cypress Gardens was Florida’s first theme park, offering water sports and a botanical garden in Winter Haven. It is now the site of Legoland Florida. The Pope sentiment is still felt today by attractions across Central Florida, including Gatorland in Orlando.
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âGatorland has a 22 year leap over them when it comes to being open here in Central Florida, but I truly believe we wouldn’t be here today without Disney and the impact they are having. had on our community, âsaid Gatorland CEO Mark Mchugh.
Gatorland opened in 1949 along US-441, which at the time was the main thoroughfare from North Florida to Miami. A popular attraction with families who stop along their trip to learn about Florida’s wildlife and get up close to alligators.
âEverything changed in the 1950s and 1960s when they built [Interstate 4] and the toll highway. Suddenly people were no longer walking past Gatorland and our business was dying. Disney opened in 1971, and all those millions of people started coming and it just revitalized the tourist community here and that’s the only reason we’re still alive, âMcHugh said.
Gatorland doesn’t view Disney competition, but rather as business partners offering an experience you can’t find at Disney, like feeding the alligators.
âWe’re like that little dog running around the big dog’s feet picking up the crumbs that they drop, and they don’t leave a lot of crumbs,â McHugh said.
Fun Spot amusement parks also benefit visitors drawn to Disney World, according to vice president of marketing John Chidester.
âNo long lines and no waiting to ride the attractions here,â Chidester said.
Chidester said the park attracts patrons with its affordable tickets and smaller crowds.
At one of Orlando’s new attractions, ICON Park, CEO Chris Jaskiewicz said Disney World brought more than visitors, but great employees.
âFor decades, Disney has attracted, recruited, trained and retained exceptional employees, managers and leaders and they are the best in the business,â said Jaskiewicz.
In fact, Jaskiewicz is a proud former cast member who worked at Disney World in the 1980s. He still has his original Disney badge.
âWhen I look at this badge, I first think of the training and commitment everyone had when they trained me,â Jaskiewicz said. âI had several jobs at Disney. I have been a landscaper for many summers. I was a bartender. I was a waiter.
Jaskiewicz’s father also worked at Disney World, receiving an award for 35 years of service before retiring as vice president. Now he is following the family business by opening his own attraction with this 400 foot wheel with shopping and dining options. He said he hired many former Disney World cast members on his team.
âThey really raised the bar. Everyone in town knows that they have to provide great service, that their employees have to be extremely friendly, and the product has to be of high quality, âJaskiewicz said. âI carry that ethic with me here at ICON Park because we try to do the same. Put the stake in the ground and raise it up.
ICON Park offers a special discount to visitors to Disney World. Half price entry to The Wheel if you present your Disney World ticket. ICON Park calls it the âPark Topper Ticketâ.
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