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Park's season ticket slip angers some

Weeki Wachee Springs season pass holders were told they also could get into Silver Springs. Park officials now say that was incorrect.

By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 2, 2000


WEEKI WACHEE -- Contrary to what they were told, thousands of season pass holders to Weeki Wachee Spring will be unable to use their tickets for glass-bottom boat rides or jungle cruises at Silver Springs. That's because the passes sold before March 26 offering free entry into four other parks, including Silver Springs, are not being honored by that park.

Weeki Wachee plans to replace the defunct deal at Silver Springs with an arrangement including Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven. The pass offers for the 2000 season were sold at $29.95 before March 26 and listed free entry into Silver Springs from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30 as part of the deal.

The entry into Cypress Gardens will be good only for July.

The other parks -- the Jacksonville Zoological Gardens, the Florida Aquarium in Tampa and Homosassa Springs -- still are part of the package. Customers will not receive refunds for their passes.

"They backed out of it," said Mike Jacobs, interim general manager of Weeki Wachee, referring to Silver Springs' lack of participation. "They've done it continually for the last 15 to 20 years. But they have new management, and they backed out."

Officials at Silver Springs said that last year's deal was not reapproved for the 2000 season and that Weeki Wachee failed to verify that fact before running its promotion.

"I'm afraid someone ran that without it being approved," said Steve Specht, spokesman for Silver Springs.

Jacobs said that the arrangement was a done deal.

Jacobs served as general manager and chief operating officer at Silver Springs for four years until the park was sold this year by Ogden Corp. to Alfa Holdings SA, resulting in a change of management. Jacobs assumed his post at Weeki Wachee in early April.

He said pass holders who bought their tickets before March 26 should soon be getting letters in the mail about the replacement of Silver Springs with Cypress Gardens.

Donna Urling of Spring Hill said she found out about the switch several weeks ago when she called Silver Springs asking for performance dates. Her mother had bought six passes for herself, Urling, Urling's husband and the couple's three oldest sons.

But now her mother is disappointed she will be unable to take in the shows or boat rides at Silver Springs and instead must drive to Cypress Gardens for its bird walk aviary and butterfly conservatory.

"I don't even know where that is," Urling said of Cypress Gardens.

She said her mother can't enjoy the water slides at Weeki Wachee's Buccaneer Bay.

"This isn't really about my situation, because my kids want to do Buccaneer Bay, but if my mom, who is 72, hasn't gotten a letter, how many others out there haven't gotten a letter? A lot of them can't walk a lot. Their big day thing has been eliminated, and they haven't even told people."

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