AUBURNDALE — Troubled by waning attendance and image problems, Fantasy of Flight, an aviation-themed attraction boasting the world's largest private collection of vintage aircraft, closes to the public April 6.
Kermit Weeks, the charismatic former aerobatics champion and aircraft designer who built Fantasy of Flight in part to house his collection, said he gave the somber news Tuesday morning to staff inside the attraction and airfield just off Interstate 4 near Polk City.
"I turned 60 last year and the clock is ticking; it's time to move on," Weeks said. "So the bottom line is, instead of focusing on a business that quite honestly is not sustainable, I can focus my energy and resources toward a dream that will sustain.
"I have great employees, a great product, but people think we're (little more than) a dusty old airplane museum."
Weeks said he failed to change that misperception over the 18 years Fantasy of Flight has operated, despite adding elements such as aerial demonstrations of rare, vintage aircraft, tram tours that give visitors a glimpse of restoration efforts and a zip line.
Over the next few years, Weeks said, he'll continue to build on his private event business while working on plans to create a new destination attraction.
"I'm going to get some of the best minds in the design business," he said. "We're going to look like the big boys up the street," meaning major theme parks, "but with a completely different product."