SeaWorld to end orca shows by 2017 in San Diego

November 9, 2015, 3:51 PM

Associated Press

Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 | 12:11 p.m.

SAN DIEGO — A SeaWorld executive says orca shows at the company's San Diego park will end by 2017.

CEO Joel Manby cited customer feedback as the reason for the move in an announcement Monday to investors.

Manby said the park would offer a different kind of orca experience and focus on the animal's natural setting and behaviors.

The news came days after SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. reported third-quarter earnings missed Wall Street expectations.

The Orlando, Florida-based company has seen revenue drop since the release of the documentary "Blackfish" that criticized its treatment of killer whales in captivity.

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See it soon before it is gone!!!

Replies (29)

November 9, 2015, 4:01 PM

From USA Today: "The California Coastal Commission recently refused to give the company permission to breed killer whales, a decision that would have threatened its theatrical shows.

The company is putting a hold on a plan for a major tank expansion in San Diego, saying it will invest in a new "orca experience" to open in 2017."

I think the decision is to preempt the Commission that refused to allow the breeding of the whales in exchange for the large new tanks. So the whales will get smaller tanks and SeaWorld will still have the breeding and no more Orca shows. Nice job Commission. The extinction of the Orcas is on you Commission and PETA. Thankfully, this doesn't affect other locations.

November 9, 2015, 4:27 PM

Californians really care. Texans and Floridans not so much.

November 9, 2015, 5:25 PM

If you read my SeaWorld San Diego trip report, you know that I could care less about the show. The orca show is crap without the trainers in the water with the orcas.

November 9, 2015, 5:57 PM

I'm surprised with all the backlash Sea World had been receiving since the death of Dawn and Blackfish, Sea World hasn't done this earlier. With Blue World pretty much being canned, this could mark the end of killer whale captivity at Seaworld.

In response to Juan, the shows in Orlando were never really the same without the trainers in the water, and the heart of the orca shows is mostly gone.

Edited: November 9, 2015, 6:37 PM

In our upcoming guidebook, we don't even recommend One Ocean among the top attractions at SWO anymore (based on tepid reader reviews). Given that Shamu is the park's icon, that's pretty damning. Without the trainers in the water, there's no show. So why no just go ahead and make this another zoo exhibition?

I'm going to have a column about this in the Orange County Register tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm working up something about the new "Sea World Rescue" rides for the front page.

Edited: November 9, 2015, 9:29 PM

Honestly, I do not have a huge problem with the discontinuation of One Ocean. The show is not that great and with all the controversy about captive orcas at the moment I figured it would happen eventually. My issues result not from the decision itself, but from the way it is happening.

Consider this: While enthusiasts may not be a huge fan of One Ocean, the show still plays to capacity crowds. Despite the controversy surrounding these animals, it is clear that a majority of SeaWorld visitors do watch the show. Now, imagine what will happen when all these people are told that this show they enjoy will be removed from the park and not replaced. Will this affect how likely they are to visit in the future? I may be wrong, but I have a hunch that 20-30% would probably stop visiting SeaWorld or reduce the frequency of their visits by at least half.

Now, SeaWorld San Diego is currently struggling with attendance. They are also struggling to improve the orca habitat due to unreasonable conditions put in place by a group with questionable authority over that area. According to this article, that project is now dead, and my best guess is that any habitat improvements beyond converting the show tank areas to exhibit space will probably be minimal. They'll probably make it look nice, but the orcas will be confined to roughly the same space they currently occupy instead of doubling the size as Blue World promised.

A couple days ago, I made a comment on a front page article saying that SeaWorld needs to either commit to being a marine park with a few themed attractions or a theme park with a few animal attractions. Based on the termination of One Ocean and cancellation of Blue World along with the addition of a new dark ride, I think it is pretty clear which way SeaWorld wants to go. However, I question whether this is the correct choice. On my most recent visit to the park, ride lines were generally no more than 5 minutes (except for Shipwreck Rapids due to the temperature), yet shows still played to capacity. Granted, it was an off-season weekday, but I think this says that, at least in San Diego, people visit SeaWorld for the animals and not the rides. If they build this new dark ride and attendance continues to decline, I'd take that as a pretty solid indicator that the San Diego park is in serious trouble.

In addition, I have to wonder if this decision is the right one for the animals. If I were SeaWorld, I would prioritize decisions regarding animal exhibits as follows: animal well-being, then visitor appeal, then public perception. Given that One Ocean is only ending in California and will continue to play in Florida and Texas for the foreseeable future, I have to think that this is not the best decision when it comes to the animals. Will they really be happier and healthier, both physically and mentally, spending their lives swimming around exhibit tanks than getting to perform and practice behaviors impractical outside of a show environment? My educated guess would be probably not. I honestly would not be surprised if SeaWorld goes ahead with Blue World in Florida and Texas, then transfers all the orcas out of the California park once those projects are complete.

This leads to my final point...SeaWorld has made the orca their icon, and it would be a lot of work to change that. However, as it is their icon it is what people expect to see, so visiting SeaWorld and not having an orca presence at all would probably be very disappointing to a lot of people. It would be like going to Disneyland and discovering that the castle has been removed. Regardless of what propaganda is put out, however, SeaWorld also needs to keep in mind that they are a business and need to do what is best for them to survive. If keeping orcas in captivity is better for them than not, they need to keep them regardless of how controversial the practice is. As long as all the animal's needs are being met, there shouldn't be anything wrong with keeping an animal born in captivity in its native environment. SeaWorld San Diego is my local SeaWorld park and I do enjoy visiting occasionally, but if the park is forced to give up the elements that make it SeaWorld I would rather see the park close and the funding be diverted to improve the other parks in the chain than watch the park die a slow death due to pressure from outside forces.

November 10, 2015, 12:51 AM

So I defended SeaWorld in pointless Youtube comments for nothing

Edited: November 10, 2015, 8:34 AM

"SeaWorld needs to either commit to being a marine park with a few themed attractions or a theme park with a few animal attractions."

This is not a real choice. To be a marine park, it needs to change to a non-profit and makes its money from donors. SeaWorld is a profit oriented company as a theme park operator. The choice is clear. It cannot focus on its animals for this model is obsolete due to current events. The transition will be difficult. Earning customer trust is hard. Since when did our animal lovers like PETA and many animal activists can get this so wrong. What was an accident of a trainer death should not be turned into a craven attitude to destroy the Orca program.

SeaWorld should be like other aquariums in the future. Do more safe animal exhibits. Do sharks. Maybe branch out into other water mammals like alligators or crocodiles, which are plentiful in the wild. Then do a major theme park ride like Indiana Jones Adventure.

Edited: November 10, 2015, 11:37 AM

@Anon - That is what Sea World is doing...Look at their recent additions around the chain. They are focused on combining animals and major rides. The Manta installations on both coasts are prime examples. Both have amazing animal exhibits combined with thrill rides. Antarctica was supposed to be the same thing, but unfortunately they oversold the thrill and made the habitat too realistic (the darkness in the busy summer months turns off guests sometimes more than the cold). Mako looks to be a similar experience to Manta with upgraded exhibit space around a thrill ride.

"Maybe branch out into other water mammals like alligators or crocodiles, which are plentiful in the wild." The last time I checked, alligators and crocodiles are reptiles, but I see your point. I seem to recall a gator exhibit in Orlando long ago, and San Antonio still has one. With the loss of the polar bear and the dated ride at Wild Arctic in Orlando, perhaps that could be a place for those type of animals (air breathing outside the typical marine mammals that are already everywhere in Sea World). Also the Lake/Bayside Stadiums in all 3 parks are completely wasted space since the park no longer does skiing shows.

Sea World San Diego is very different than the other 2 parks in that the park is under strict control from the city. Also, the park has much more of a zoo feel than the other parks with numerous museum-style attractions. The Shark Encounter, Penguin Encounter, and classic aquarium are straight out of Jaws 3, and are in desperate need of updating.

I think ultimately, the path forward for Sea World is the Manta-like approach by revamping existing exhibits and adding a thrill ride. It's what made EPCOT so successful, and could really work well for Sea World. Create a land or pavilion around a major marine ecosystem or group of animals. The area would have numerous exhibits and interactions with those animals coupled with a major ride or set of smaller rides. Sea World has proven the model successful with Manta (and to a lesser extent with Atlantis, though the exhibit space in Orlando could be far better), and will do it again with Mako. I still think Antarctica is a great addition, and many other zoos are revamping their penguin and puffin exhibits to include open cold rooms. I think what Sea World is doing is the path forward, and once they determine the future of how Orcas will be presented, they should be on solid footing.

November 10, 2015, 11:53 AM

The Manta and Mako rides are the wrong approach because roller coasters don't do anything for kids under the height requirements. They need to present attractions that are suitable for all ages. San Diego has less options to attract everyone. SeaWorld shouldn't be the in-between park between Disney/Universal and the low end Six Flags and Knott's. It should aim higher.

I incorrectly identified alligators and crocs as mammals. I should note they aren't sea creatures either. SeaWorld has a few exhibits that are not related to sea life at the former horse stables. Their flamingo exhibits are quite nice to see.

Edited: November 10, 2015, 1:55 PM

"They need to present attractions that are suitable for all ages. San Diego has less options to attract everyone."

But that's exactly what they're doing with Mako (along with what they did with Manta and Journey to Atlantis). They have an e-ticket thrill ride appealing to the adults and teens along with the animal exhibits that appeal to the kids. In a perfect world, they would put a small kid's flat ride right next door, but they've instead chosen to consolidate the kids rides in Shamu's Happy Harbor. Universal is dealing with it with WWoHP, Disney dealt with it at Cars Land, and they'll deal with it again in Pandora.

With new ride systems, any e-ticket today is going to have some level of height restriction, alienating small children (typically under 42"). By developing animal exhibits and experiences to pair with their thrill rides, Sea World is attempting to eliminate splitting of families despite the need for more stringent height restrictions. Antarctica (and Wild Arctic for that matter) provides experiences tailored to the guests with the "Wild" and "Mild" programs for the ride, and is probably where they should go in the future. However, I wouldn't blame them for being skittish after the lackluster reception for Antarctica.

I'd say San Diego actually has more options for the whole family because that park is far more exhibit/show based than the other 2 Sea World parks. Also, the likelihood of the San Diego park getting a thrill ride with a >48" height restriction is pretty low because of the construction restrictions placed on the park by the city. That park instead needs to consolidate their various exhibit pavilions into larger experiences, perhaps paired with dark rides or movies/shows since real thrill rides are going to be difficult to pull off in that part of the country.

Ultimately, I think Sea World (and Busch Gardens) appropriately fills that gap between SF/CF and Disney/Universal. That's their sweet spot, and they should continue to market to that demographic. They attempted to aim higher with Antarctica, and fell flat on their face (mostly due to poor marketing, and not necessarily in the quality of the attraction itself). They do "Edutainment" better than anyone else in the industry, and should continue to stay in that wheel house.

November 10, 2015, 2:23 PM

"By developing animal exhibits and experiences to pair with their thrill rides, Sea World is attempting to eliminate splitting of families despite the need for more stringent height restrictions."

Huh? This double speak is not helping. They are splitting up families because the kids must wait with another adult supervising.

Mako will be a 200-foot hypercoaster. There's no getting around that kids cannot ride and the lines will be long on a busy day. Families will be split or the adults will have to refrain from going to avoid splitting with their families.

They need to think up attractions that are suitable for everyone. This is not a small fix.

Edited: November 10, 2015, 3:03 PM

"Huh? This double speak is not helping. They are splitting up families because the kids must wait with another adult supervising."

There is no double speak. This setup is no different than Test Track, Mission: Space, Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin', Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, or Escape From Gringotts. Small children simply cannot ride modern e-ticket rides. However, Sea World is addressing this issue by creating/renovating/modernizing exhibits in the same area where the e-tickets are being built. Everyone is doing it now, and Sea World is following the same pattern. If the kids are too small to ride Mako, they walk through the Shark Encounter next door while the parents take turns riding. This is no different than what you have to do to ride HP&TFJ or Dragon Challenge, with the kids taking a castle tour, riding Flight of the Hipogriff (assuming they're even tall enough for that), or walking through Hogsmeade.

Unfortunately, there simply aren't ride systems that can create interest without requiring a height restriction. Even WDW's newest "D+" ticket cannot accommodate all guests (7DMT). However, by grouping e-ticket attractions with other things to entertain the smaller members of the family, you can play to the entire family by still addressing both extremes. If Soarin' is any indication, the new Avatar e-ticket will separate families too, but the boat ride probably won't and neither will the scenery. Should Disney not build Flight of Passage, because the entire family can't ride together? Should we tear down Space Mountain because my 43" tall 5-year old can't ride meaning my wife and I have to take turns?

If you want to talk about double speak, listen to yourself...

"To be a marine park, it needs to change to a non-profit and makes its money from donors...SeaWorld should be like other aquariums in the future."

So it can't be a "marine park", but needs to be like an "aquarium" (many of which are non-profit like some, but not all marine parks, btw). Not making a lot of sense there.

You seem to think there's some magical theme park ride that every member of the family can go on, and that roller coasters for whatever reason split families. Your preconceived notions are not based in reality. Roller coasters in iron parks split families, but when properly planned, with other things for the little ones to do while the parents are riding, can be hugely successful. The reality is that a lot of kids under 5 cannot ride Indiana Jones and many other non-coaster dark rides. If you're under 38", you're basically limited to omni-movers, and if you're under 42", you can't go on anything that moves with any sort of excitement. However, there's this cool concept called "parent/child swap", where one parent can ride while the other parent stays with the child. Parent swap is great, but can be annoying when there's nothing to do around the height restricted attraction or if parents are forced to stand in the queue together or forced into a blank room while the each other ride. But putting thrill rides (a necessary component to virtually any theme park) in close proximity to other non-height restricted attractions, it maximizes the parent/child swap experience and builds anticipation for the child on their next visit to the park when they might be tall enough to ride.

I can't tell you how annoying it was to have to parent swap on Escape from Gringott's because there's very little for younger kids to do in Diagon Alley. Once you've seen both shows and gone through all of the shops, there's little else to do. Hogwart's Express is a no-go because of the time involved (over an hour to round trip in our experience), and I think we would have been really frustrated with Diagon Alley if we hadn't bought a wand, which ended up being the primary entertainment for our son while my wife and I took turns on the new ride.

"They need to think up attractions that are suitable for everyone. This is not a small fix."

They did, but sadly Antarctica just doesn't measure up despite the massive investment. The big thrill ride surrounded by exhibits and other non-height restricted attractions is the way to go.

Edited: November 10, 2015, 3:20 PM

"So it can't be a "marine park", but needs to be like a future "aquarium" (many of which are non-profit like some, but not all marine parks, btw). Not making a lot of sense there."

You cut out my dialog with the "..." nice.

There are many for-profit aquariums like Legoland's Sealife and EPCOT's Living Seas. They are especially designed for kids with no height requirement.

"If you're under 38", you're basically limited to omni-movers, and if you're under 42", you can't go on anything that moves with any sort of excitement."

Or boat rides, or trains, or trams. Excitement can be generated, but for SeaWorld to mostly add roller coasters is a limited approach and teenagers are not its primary demographic. SeaWorld should better attract families with young kids who enjoy looking at animals to learn and enjoy.

The exciting things about Manta in San Diego is the video presentation prior to launch. It is too bad that young kids could not experience it. Much of the simulator technology could be translated to gentle rides since the excitement happens on the screen. Instead of a mega ride tossing Spiderman type ride, the vehicle doesn't have to move much and all that activity happens on the screen. That's what pretty much happens with Legoland's dark rides.

November 10, 2015, 6:00 PM

I totally agree with Russell here.

Edited: November 11, 2015, 8:20 AM

You seem to dismiss a lot of stuff Sea World has added for the whole family. Orlando's most recent addition, Antarctica, targets the entire family with no height restriction. The entrance upgrade to San Diego targets the entire family with no height restriction. San Antonio's recently completed Pacific Point Preserve targets the entire family. Turtle Trek (about 3 years old now) is a screen-based attraction for the entire family with no height restriction.

The central addition of the Mako project does leave out the kids, but they're upgrading the Shark Encounter as part of the project, which is targeted toward everyone. They've announced the Sea Rescue dark rides that appear to be accessible to entire families with no height restriction.

Sea World is very much designing and building attractions for the entire family. However, you see a roller coaster, and instantly see division. I can appreciate your point of view that coasters can leave the little ones out, but Sea World appears to be doing a great job of not only adding a big thrilling roller coaster, but also upgrading the space around the coasters to better accommodate and entertain families waiting. However, Sea World has added a number of all-inclusive attractions that you are completely ignoring for whatever reason.

The Sea World parks have far more family accessible attraction than IOA and USF (particularly with Twister and Disaster closing), and are on par with Animal Kingdom and DHS with the number of attractions that alienate the smaller members on the family.

Edited: November 11, 2015, 9:12 AM

"You seem to dismiss a lot of stuff Sea World has added for the whole family."

No I'm not. You're dismissing my legitimate concerns about the new marquee attractions that are designed to not include kids. Mako is one such attraction. Sure, it's only one, but its a big one. BIG!!!

Yet, these attractions include others like Manta that also have a height requirement. They add up to where there's enough attractions where kids are prevented from riding. We are talking about rides? Correct? So kids can't ride. They can certainly stand and look. Look at that shark and look at that roller coaster.

If SeaWorld hopes to improve its attendance, going Six Flags isn't it. You can argue the nearby companion exhibits will make up for the roller coasters. Certainly, the sting ray exhibit next to the Manta coaster is a nice companion. You can spend a lot of time at the sting rays pools compared with a short roller coaster hop. The result is the lesser of the combo. A slightly less impressive sting ray exhibit and a rather unremarkable coaster.

Edited: November 11, 2015, 10:52 AM

There will be total of FOUR (4) major attractions at Sea World Orlando that have height restriction that alienate small children (Manta, Kraken, Journey to Atlantis, and Mako). At IOA, the only what I would consider "major" attractions that are inclusive of the small kids are Cat in the Hat and Hogwart's Express. Hulk, Spiderman, Dudley Do Right, Popeye, Jurassic Park, Kong -likely, HPFJ, and Dragon Challenge all have minimum 42" height restrictions, which is twice as many major attractions as Sea World. DAK is a little more friendly to the kids, but there are still 4 "major" attraction that have height restrictions (Dinosaur, Everest, Kali, and Primeval Whirl). In percentages, 20% of IOA's major attraction cannot be experienced by small children, DAK is 50%, the same number, which includes Mako, as Sea World (I consider Blue Horizons and One Ocean "major" attractions).

Honestly, if Sea World does what you're suggesting (build slow-moving, omni-mover-style dark rides), they're going to go bankrupt. If you just got hammered for Antarctica, would you ever consider doing another all-inclusive dark ride??? They have found an audience with their thrill rides and those thrill seekers bring their small kids to see the animals and shows. The families are not split up like they are at a SF or CF park because the big thrill rides are surrounded by things for the rest of the family to enjoy. Do you similarly have concerns that Disney's new marquee attraction for DAK is not designed for small kids, similarly IOA? You also seem to completely ignore Antarctica, which was specifically designed to be all inclusive with variable experiences for the thrill seekers and little ones, alike along with Turtle Trek, which debuted just less than 4 years ago (3 years after Orlando's Manta).

Edited: November 11, 2015, 11:44 AM

"If you just got hammered for Antarctica, would you ever consider doing another all-inclusive dark ride???"

What does this question mean? You described it as being inclusive for all ages yet you call the experience as being hammered.

You keep saying I'm ignoring things when unspoken. No, you're bringing up new things and trying to argue I'm wrong for not mentioning them earlier.

"they're going to go bankrupt" like what Six Flags did for having the biggest and baddest roller coasters?

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/six-flags-rides-into-bankruptcy/

Evidently, had more debt than they can pay off.

The thing is, that you fail to say, SeaWorld should improve its ratio of thrill rides to family rides because there's a lack of family rides. There are family exhibits and shows, which is basically it for families, and there's the kids section where you watch your kids play for hours on end. At San Diego, you can go on the tower ride and the skyway tram ride. Both of these are not open all the time. They have odd hours and may not open at all due to weather.

So the major roller coasters, rapids ride, and the simulator are all height restricted rides. SeaWorld is actually quite bad with height restrictions. Even kiddie rides have height requirements.

Let me look at DAK attractions since this might be most appropriate. Three rides (that can move) have no height restrictions, Kilimajaro Safari (a marquee attraction), Wildlife Express Train, and TriceraTop Spin. Rides with height restrictions were already identified by you.

November 11, 2015, 11:41 AM

I'm very worried, but hopeful about Sea World future. I like the idea of more dark rides. But it's whole zoo part feel scary cheap. I sure somebody out there will be interesting in buy the Sea World and Busch parks that loves the idea. But who or where is the question.

November 11, 2015, 2:34 PM

"So the major roller coasters, rapids ride, and the simulator are all height restricted rides."

The Wild Arctic simulator does not have a height restriction for the non-motion based variation of the attraction, so families can still experience it, much like Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. I would also consider Turtle Trek a "simulator" experience that is all inclusive with no height restriction, though I wouldn't consider it a major attraction.

"What does this question mean? You described it as being inclusive for all ages yet you call the experience as being hammered."

It means that the attraction Sea World attempted to create to appeal to all audiences (adults and small children) was a critical failure (not by me btw, I really like it), and has not connected with audiences like designers wanted. If you just failed miserably at something that was outside your wheelhouse (well-themed roller coasters, kid's play areas, and aquatic shows and exhibits), would you try again so quickly? Sea World's going back to their bread and butter with Mako, and it appears they're going to give the all-inclusive dark ride another try in the near future with the Sea Rescue concept (my guess is that's it's going into San Diego first).

"The thing is, that you fail to say, SeaWorld should improve its ratio of thrill rides to family rides because there's a lack of family rides."

You make a good point there, but they attempted that with Antarctica, and slow moving dark rides aren't something that Sea World has specialized at. They should make occasional attempt to go outside the comfort zone, but they know what they do well, and should continue to develop those types of attractions.

"Even kiddie rides have height requirements."

Yup, and pretty much any ride built these days is going to have a height restriction aside from a train or an omni-mover. Welcome to 2015 Anon. So either Sea World develops a train or omni-mover-style dark ride (which they appear to be working on), or they stick with large thrill rides and shows/exhibits. It doesn't seem to impact Universal too much to develop numerous height restricted attractions, so I think Sea World can be successful too.

Edited: November 11, 2015, 8:35 PM

Universal is helped by the IP more than the thrill rides. And Disney continues to win the family demographic. So when you say Universal doesn't seem to be impacted from the height restrictions attractions, it means they attract a different crowd. SeaWorld can continue trying to catch up with a crowd that's unlikely to visit it and lose attendance (very obviously teens and young adults) or it tries harder to win the crowd it should naturally appeal to (families with young kids). Maybe they're going to Legoland. The decline in attendance could be attributed to any number of reasons. Maybe Antartica was a bust, but just because they couldn't make a fine attraction doesn't mean the demand isn't there. That ride still experiences long waits, which contributed to disappointment due to high expectations. Since I'm interested in SeaWorld's success, they must have more family attractions. It's image is tied up with cute penguins and whales afterall. And kids bring their parents. That's the way you appeal to adults as through their kids.

BTW: Universal has the same number of roller coasters in 2 parks as SeaWorld in one.

Edited: November 12, 2015, 7:30 AM

"BTW: Universal has the same number of roller coasters in 2 parks as SeaWorld in one."

Nope...IOA has 5 roller coasters (Hulk, Hippogriff, Pteradon Flyers, Chinese Fireball, and Hungarian Horntail), while USF has 4 roller coasters (Rip Ride Rocket, Mummy, Escape from Gringott's, and Woody Woodpecker). Sea World currently has 3 (Manta, Kraken, and Shamu Express) with a 4th on the way (Mako). You could argue that Journey to Atlantis could also count as a roller coaster, but that still wouldn't get Sea World over the 9 total coasters at UO, let alone the 5 at IOA. In fact, if you combine all three Sea World parks together (and don't count any of the Journey to Atlantis installations as roller coasters), Sea World doesn't have more roller coasters in their 3 parks than Universal Orlando has in their 2 (counting the JTAs, they'd have 11 to UO's 9).

"It's image is tied up with cute penguins and whales afterall. And kids bring their parents."

See I believe it's the opposite. Parents bring their kids to learn about sea life, not kids being naturally drawn to the park. Just like a zoo or aquarium, kids are a force driving attendance, but I believe it's more the parents making the choice to take their kids somewhere with some level of educational value rather than the kids organically choosing to watch shows and see exhibits (the heart of the Sea World experience). If left to their own whims, kids would select a handful of other Orlando parks and experiences before they'd select Sea World. Perhaps that's a problem, but I don't see it that way. As a park driven primarily by non-fiction story lines, they either need to insert more fictional/mythical experiences into the park to attract kids, or do more the cater to their parents, which are bringing their kids to Sea World as an educational diversion during vacation. That's what these thrill rides do with a nod to the kids by revamping and improving the existing animal habitats and experiences. Small kids know Mickey Mouse, Minions, and Legos, but they don't have a clue who Shamu is. Their parents share that educational experience with their children, and Sea World's hope is that what they learn and experience at their parks will inspire them to return, and bring their children.

November 12, 2015, 9:27 AM

I was counting the outdoor coasters that doesn't have much theming as this was how SeaWorld's coasters are presented.

The Dueling Dragons was counted as one coaster. And I counted Journey to Atlantis as a coaster. I wasn't counting Pteradon Flyers and Woody Woodpecker as coasters in this case. I regarded Mummy and Escape from Gringott' as a different category, more dark ride than coaster.

So I erred in this case since it was just a straight count.

"If left to their own whims, kids would select a handful of other Orlando parks and experiences before they'd select Sea World."

That's why SeaWorld has this problem with attendance. The non-fiction aspect isn't winning people over. People want more characters and fantasy environments. Roller coaster type thrill rides are not it. There's a limit of how much people want to be tossed around for its own sake. As for the educational aspects, only works with entertainment and the information is spoon fed.

Edited: November 12, 2015, 11:04 AM

"The Dueling Dragons was counted as one coaster. And I counted Journey to Atlantis as a coaster. I wasn't counting Pteradon Flyers and Woody Woodpecker as coasters in this case. I regarded Mummy and Escape from Gringott' as a different category, more dark ride than coaster."

And see, that's where you're creating a double standard. You count Journey to Atlantis as a coaster, which I could go either way, but regard Mummy and Escape from Gringott's as more dark ride than coaster. Now, I don't doubt that those 2 USF rides are more dark ride than either Kraken or Manta (though both are pretty highly themed for large outdoor installations - equivalent to Hulk or Dragon Challenge), but to categorize JTA (at least Orlando's version) as a coaster, but Mummy and Gringott's as dark rides is totally hypocritical. JTA is as much dark ride as those 2, and I would argue the 2 USF rides are way more roller coaster than JTA (Orlando's JTA is technically only a roller coaster for the final drop section with less than 800 feet of coaster track behind the attraction, the rest it is technically a flume ride). Also, not to beat you up on this, you cannot count Dragon Challenge as 1 roller coaster. It is 2 unique, and very different experiences. If you want to get real technical, you can even call coasters like MK's Space Mountain and DL's Matterhorn two separate coaster, but in those cases, I think it's reasonably accepted that the two sides on those coasters are pretty much the same with just a few slight variations (Matterhorn more so than Space Mountain). However, Dragon Challenge has two completely different courses with different inversions, with one side (Chinese Fireball - formerly Fire) emphasizing speed (it's top speed is 5 MPH higher), while the other (Hungarian Horntail, formerly Ice) emphasizing the near miss/dueling elements and airtime.


I think your desire for Sea World to inject more fantasy into the park would be a huge mistake. It diverts from the park's mission, and minimizes what makes Sea World different from other theme parks. If they pushed more towards fantasy, they'd be just like everyone else, and because they don't have the resources of a company like Disney or Comcast (or even Lego for that matter), they would never be able to compete. They need to continue to do what they do best, weather the Blackfish storm, and continue to offer something different from what Disney and Universal do, which is an excellent non-fiction experience. Trying to match what Disney and Universal are doing is only go to accelerate the losses. They know who their core audience is, and they need to continue to play to those visitors as more and more people are making difficult decisions as to how to divide their days of a typical week-long vacation.

Edited: November 12, 2015, 11:28 AM

"to categorize JTA (at least Orlando's version) as a coaster, but Mummy and Gringott's as dark rides is totally hypocritical."

That's absolutely ridiculous. I already agreed with you that if you want a straight roller coaster count, that would be fine, but my original count was based on how the roller coasters were presented as minimally themed thrill rides where the count was more appropriate.

Look at how Universal sells Gringott's and SeaWorld sells Atlantis.

"Enter Gringotts™ bank beneath the massive fire-breathing dragon at the far end of Diagon Alley™. Inside Gringotts™ you’ll walk through the bank’s grand marble lobby and see goblins hard at work. Then, get ready to take a journey through cavernous passageways that lead deep underground as you climb aboard Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™.

This multi-dimensional 3D thrill ride puts you right in the middle of the action as you face the bank’s stringent security measures while navigating the perilous underground vaults. You’ll encounter Harry, Ron, and Hermione along the way, but you’ll have to evade the wrath of malicious villains Voldemort™ and Bellatrix as well as trolls and other creatures who stand between you and a safe return to Diagon Alley™."

Not one mention about it is a roller coaster at all. How could they? In the books and movies, they are magic carts or trolleys.

"Water ride enthusiasts are in for a thrill as this mythical paradise reveals its darker side. This exciting flume ride/roller coaster hybrid treats you to more than its share of surprises as you explore dark, watery passageways through the sunken city before being flung from its gates down a thrilling plunge into the waters below."

It is described as a roller coaster too. You can't say it is more flume than roller coaster. It is both. It doesn't matter if you're spending more time in the flume. The emphasis on its dark ride portion isn't much either. They aren't positioning it as comparable to anything at Universal.

Universal was better with The Mummy.

"Your only hope is to escape the Revenge of the Mummy, a roller coaster unlike anything that's come before it. You'll plunge in total darkness, plagued on all sides by huge fireballs, swarms of scarab beetles and an army of warrior mummies.

Universal Studios® has taken all the terrifying thrills and spine-tingling excitement of The Mummy motion pictures and placed you right in the middle of the action. Come face to face with the Mummy as he attempts to capture your soul for all eternity. Can you survive the awesome power of Imhotep's curse…or will you be entombed inside forever?"

It is a roller coaster unlike anything else and a second paragraph that tells you anything other than the roller coaster aspect.

As for everything else and before, we disagree. The audience has declined for the animal entertainment as the primary attraction. They can't just keep trying to attract based on losing concepts that includes roller coasters that have a limited audience.

November 12, 2015, 1:24 PM

So now you retort with some marketing schlock, real convincing Anon. It's good to know you place more weight on what some PR person says about an attraction than the actual technical specifications or the actual on ride experience. Have you even been on JTA or any of the other attractions we've discussed here?

I'll have to remember to consult a marketing guru next time to assemble my thoughts with some flashy overwrought language the next time we have a back and forth, maybe then I could be more convincing to you. I guess instead of investing in new rides and attractions, Sea World just needs to spend more money on a good spinster to make their rides sound more exciting in print.

November 12, 2015, 2:26 PM

Do you know what's a spinster? Or do you mean spin master as long as you don't refer to the company named Spin Master that makes toys for pre-school kids.

I think the word you're looking for is spinmeister.

November 21, 2015, 1:11 PM

I think Sea World should transition to a DisneySea type of model with the aquarium exhibits mixed in. Give a good dark rides with a mix of IP and non-IP and the parks will do just fine.

The world has changed and animal shows just aren't the draw that they once were.

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