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ORLANDO-Showing his civic consciousness, David A. Siegel tells Gov. Jeb Bush he is ready to sign a 99-year lease with the state and put $5 million into a maintenance bank escrow account to operate the recently closed Cypress Gardens attraction in Winter Haven, FL. Siegel, the owner of Florida’s largest privately held timeshare development company, says he would continue to back the venture even if becomes a perennial losing proposition for him.

Bush and his cabinet meet Friday to decide on buying the 67-year-old, 223-acre property from former Anheuser-Busch executives Larry Maxwell and William Reynolds and their investors who haven’t formally announced they are even ready to sell the prime location, located 60 miles south of Downtown Orlando.

Nobody is talking price yet. But all of the players are aware of the Polk County Property Appraiser’s most recent assessment of $12 million or about $40,000 per acre (92 cents per sf). However, industrial brokers, familiar with the park’s commercial development potential, tell GlobeSt.com some of the lakefront dirt and interior land could go for a combined average of $300,000 per acre ($6.89 per sf), or a total $90 million.

Siegel couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline.But spokespersons at his Orlando headquarters tell GlobeSt.com that Bush and former state legislator Rick Dantzler like Siegel’s plan that would allow the internationally-known Cypress Gardens to host the Florida Sports Hall of Fame and other historic memorabilia documenting Southern culture and beauty pageants. Siegel’s plan also would allow free park admission to Florida seniors over 65.

“The one thing David feels very strongly about is that Cypress Gardens should remain a public heritage,” a spokesperson says. “Although much of the 223 acres could easily be converted to prime commercial dirt, David is urging the governor to prevent the development of condominiums and hotels on the property and save the attraction for future generations to enjoy and cherish.”

But that’s not exactly the sentiments and plans of Atlanta developer Kent Buescher, owner of the Wild Adventures attraction near Valdosta, GA. Beuscher was one of the first bidders to buy Cypress Gardens after the park abruptly closed April 13 due to sagging attendance. He has told the park’s owners he is ready to sink $30 million in new attractions after he buys the property. He would also invest $3 million to $5 million annually to cover maintenance costs.

The governor’s office says one of the state’s prime motivations in buying Cypress Gardens is to preserve seven miles of shoreline on Lake Eloise and a 36-acre botanical garden that displays 8,000 plants from 90 countries.

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