TORONTO — There’s been a flurry of activity at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which earlier this week announced plans to phase out its controversial ‘One Ocean’ killer whale show at its San Diego park. This move, announced by President and Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby, follows intense public criticism sparked by the release of ‘Blackfish’, a 2013 documentary about the controversy over captive killer whales.
According to Manby, ‘One Ocean’ will continue to run through 2016 at which point it will be replaced by a new experience that will “engage and inform guests by highlighting more of the species’ natural behaviours.” The show will include conservation messaging and tips on how to make a difference for orcas in the wild, though what it entails specifically is unclear. The format change only affects SeaWorld’s San Diego park.
The new show is just one of several new developments for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, many of which were announced at a recent media event in Toronto. But although these new offerings, which include exciting rides and family-friendly attractions, are sure to enhance the guest experience, special guest Dr. Christopher Dold, Vice President of Veterinary Services, made sure to remind those in attendance what SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is at its core.
“From the outside looking in, we simply look like a series of theme parks that just happen to have animals. But in truth, we are a professional zoological organization that just happens to have rides,” he said. “In our original business plan, it says that animals aren’t to be used just for entertainment but also to promote education. We believe deeply that the best way to conserve the natural world is to see an animal in person.”
To support this notion, Panasonic has come onboard as an Official Technology Partner of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and its parks to provide technology that will better connect park guests with animals and the company’s 23,000 employees, now known as ambassadors.
“We hope that experiencing animals in our parks moves our guests to a deeper understanding of the plight of all animals – and an increasingly threatened natural environment – and inspires those guests to help conserve the world we share,” said Manby in an official statement.
Other new developments are as follows:
- The company has signed a letter of intent with Evans Hotels Group to explore development of a resort hotel on SeaWorld’s leased land in San Diego. Evans owns and operates well-known resorts and attractions in San Diego County, including The Lodge at Torrey Pines, Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa, the Bahia Resort Hotel and the Bahia Belle and William D. Evans sternwheelers.
- SeaWorld’s Saturday morning family television programs – ‘Sea Rescue’ and ‘The Wildlife Docs’ – have been renewed by Litton Entertainment through summer 2018. The shows document the company’s long-standing commitment to assisting wild animals in need – more than 27,000 to date – and the sophistication of animal husbandry and veterinary care in its zoological parks.
- Opening summer 2016, Mako at SeaWorld Orlando will be the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in Orlando. Named for one of the ocean’s fastest known sharks, the 200-foot-tall ride will reach 73 mph along 4,760 feet of steel track, nearly a mile long. Mako will become one of the world’s few true hypercoasters, a group of roller coasters known for high speeds and steep drops and hills that create a feeling of weightlessness, or ‘air time’.
- Next year will see the debut of a brand new family thrill ride at Busch Gardens Tampa. Cobra’s Curse is a spin coaster – the only one of its kind in the world – featuring a vertical lift. Located in the Egypt area of the park, the ride also includes an 80-foot snake icon and takes riders over the park’s Serengeti Plain.
- Dold alluded to a new ride based on the TV show ‘Sea Rescue’ (launch date to be determined). The ride will focus primarily on the animal rescue experience, “a key way we are different from other theme park companies,” said Manby in an official statement.
- To attract Canadian visitors, SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa have introduced ‘At Par’ pricing for a day at both parks. Available from US$59 with advanced purchase, the offer run through April 30, 2016.