What started off an entrepreneur’s dream of duplicating a already successful resulted in complete disaster. This is what happened to Splendid China Florida. Believed to be owned by the Chinese government, they thought that it would only make perfect sense to duplicate their already successful park overseas in the middle of the theme park paradise of the world, Orlando Florida.
Splendid China by design is a scaled replication of many famous structures in China. The Florida based “ride free” theme park was built upon a seventy six acre parcel of land in the middle of commercially overgrown Kissimmee. The cost to build this park has been told to be around the one hundred million dollar mark.
Opening in 1993, the park was immediately met with protestors and controversy from the American tourists they had hoped to attract into this non-thrill-ride theme park. Splendid China used live authentic (native born) entertainers to perform shows in the parks stadium to try and attract more customers into this five hundred to seven hundred visitor a day park also proved to be unsuccessful in the end.
Charging almost two thirds the same day price as admission to competitor thrill ride and story land theme park, Disney, was also blamed as a major downfall for the small “look but don’t touch” park. Why would an American tourist come to Orlando to see a replica of the Chinese government’s monuments?
To its credit, the Splendid China was meticulously built from the ground up to an exact replica of its original structures. Some of the displays in this theme park included “1000 hand, 1000 eyes”, “Temple and Courtyard”, “The Great Wall of China”, “Giant Buddha”, “Mini Temples”, “Magao Grotto”, “Stone Forest”, and “Lijiang River.”
After ten years of failed attempts to bring a crowd into the park on a daily basis, and the post terrorist attacks of September 11th, the park owners decided to close the doors to their Florida dream park and returned home to China. On December 31, 2003, the park officially closed from business. In the middle of 2004, the useable assets of the park were auctioned if in a weekend long sellout, the park was purchased in late 2005 for future development (which I am sure will be nothing like Splendid China). In September 2006, the overgrown landscape covered a park that still lay in ruins as vandals have gone in and destroyed the remaining structures within the park.
The future of this park remains uncertain at the time of this writing, but it is truly a shame to see a one hundred million dollar investment lay in crumbles along a field of weeds and destruction. I only hope that something useful will someday come of that very valuable piece of land for locals and tourists alike to enjoy. And for those unnamed few that decided it was their right to destroy something that someone worked so hard for, I hope that you will never have to feel the depression that those families do.