How Universal Won - and SeaWorld Lost - the Last 10 Years in the Theme Park Business

June 6, 2017, 10:55 AM · Let's dive deeper into that theme park industry attendance report that came out last week, to see what we can learn about the current state of the industry.

I've compiled a list with the top 20 most-attended theme parks in the United States from the 2007 report, then compared those attendance figures with ones from the most recent TEA/AECOM Theme Index, to see which top parks grew the most over the past decade. The median growth among the top parks over the past 10 years was about 14% — but the most interesting observations are to be made at the extremes of the report.

Islands of Adventure5,430,0009,362,00072.41%
Universal Studios Hollywood4,700,0008,086,00072.04%
Disney California Adventure5,680,0009,295,00063.64%
Universal Studios Florida6,200,0009,998,00061.26%
Magic Kingdom17,060,00020,395,00019.55%
Six Flags Great Adventure2,720,0003,200,00017.65%
Cedar Point3,120,0003,604,00015.51%
Canada's Wonderland3,250,0003,723,00014.55%
Disney's Animal Kingdom9,490,00010,844,00014.27%
Disney's Hollywood Studios9,510,00010,776,00013.31%
Six Flags Great America2,630,0002,950,00012.17%
Kings Island3,050,0003,384,00010.95%
Knott's Berry Farm3,630,0004,014,00010.58%
Busch Gardens Tampa4,400,0004,169,000-5.25%
Busch Gardens Williamsburg3,157,0002,780,000*-11.94%
SeaWorld San Diego4,260,0003,528,000-17.18%
SeaWorld Orlando5,800,0004,402,000-24.10%

[*2015 data, as BGW dropped from the Top 20 in 2016. FWIW, Six Flags Magic Mountain replaced it.]

You don't need a degree in statistics to see the trends here.

Let's start at the top. The Universal theme parks have enjoyed phenomenal growth over the past decade, and that's almost entirely thanks to the enormous popularity of the Harry Potter franchise and Universal's award-winning Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands.

Almost entirely, I said. Universal has complemented its investment in the Potter franchise with aggressive enhancements at all three of its U.S. theme parks, including attractions based upon Transformers, Despicable Me, King Kong, and The Simpsons. Thanks to smart investment by new owner Comcast and savvy development by its creative team, Universal has made the jump from sharing the mid-tier with SeaWorld to joining the non-Magic Kingdom Disney theme parks in popularity.

Speaking of SeaWorld, let's look now to the bottom of this list. It's not just the SeaWorld-branded parks that have suffered over the past decade. The entire chain has tanked (no pun intended) since being sold out from the protection of Anheuser-Busch's ownership into becoming a stand-alone company. The SeaWorld/Busch Gardens parks are the only ones on this list to have suffered attendance declines over the past decade. Even worse, every one of their four parks on this list have seen their attendance drop over that period.

If Universal needed multiple improvements to climb to the top of this list, the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens parks needed to suffer multiple failures to drop so far. And they did.

Universal's growth in Orlando, coupled with Disney's resilience, has put pressure on SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa to deliver something spectacular to keep pace in the world's top theme park market. They haven't. SeaWorld Orlando tried with its Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction in 2013, but that might go down as the biggest flop in recent theme park history.

The two Busch Gardens parks also missed in ordering expensive and much-hyped drop tower attractions that failed to open on time... then failed to capture the devotion of fans once they did. Until adding its underwhelming Ocean Explorer children's land this year, the San Diego park hasn't added a significant new attraction since the delightful Manta coaster in 2012.

Leaving the Anheuser-Busch family not only robbed SeaWorld/Busch Gardens of a corporate owner with deep pockets, it meant the end of the beer giveaways that time has shown might have been the most under-rated attraction at those parks. Without the lure of free beer, the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens parks have been exposed as under-capitalized attractions in generally inconvenient locations near competitive markets, without the hotels and secondary development to support growing attendance, and attraction line-ups that have suffered with too many recent flops.

The Tampa and San Diego parks are close enough to Orlando and the Los Angeles area to be in competition with their more popular Disney and Universal parks, but are not close enough to them to realize any significant spill-over benefits. Williamsburg is not a major tourism market, and while the Orlando park has a great location between Disney and Universal, SeaWorld hasn't developed the on-site hotels it needs to compete with those resorts.

The failure of any of the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens parks to get into the hotel business is killing the chain's ability to remain competitive in a business that, at its top, has become more and more about creating multi-day vacation destinations than single-day trips for locals. The SW/BG parks are acting more and more like those regional day-trip parks, and their attendance is sliding to that level, as a result.

And you might have noticed that I haven't written a word about animals yet.

The biggest mistake that reporters, analysts, and even SeaWorld management makes is assuming that the chain's problems stem from a deceptively edited "documentary" that attacked SeaWorld's management of its orcas. Since then, SeaWorld has responded by refocusing its advertising and social media outreach on its rescue and animal care efforts, to make the case that SeaWorld is a responsible custodian of its wildlife.

It hasn't helped.

Deep breath here, because I'm going to write something that makes me deeply uncomfortable. Here goes: ultimately, I believe that the attendance data shows that the majority of theme park fans... don't care about animals.

Now, people never will admit this. You can't survey interest about animals, because everyone will respond that "of course, we love them!" But top zoos don't do anywhere near the attendance numbers that top theme parks do. People went to SeaWorld, instead of to zoos, because they could see orcas breaching with trainers flying off their noses, while up-tempo music blared in a rocking stadium.

SeaWorld pulled its trainers from the water in its orca shows following the death of a trainer (not during a show) in 2010. But time has shown that people came to SeaWorld for the beer and the circuses. Without either, well, what makes the parks more appealing than a trip to the zoo? At this point, the attendance data suggests... not much.

By focusing its marketing and, now, show development, on animal care rather than thrills and entertainment, SeaWorld has dug itself a deeper hole with fans. Which, ironically, allows its foes to make the argument that their campaign is working. Which, in turn, seems to inspire SeaWorld to double down on its animal care message. Which... well... lather, rinse, repeat.

Like I mentioned, this makes me queasy to discuss. As a fan, I am interested in and inspired by what SeaWorld does in rescuing, caring for, researching, and bringing animals to people. And I know that a lot of other theme park fans feel the same way.

But we're not enough to sustain a business. Just like bringing back the circa-1983 Epcot wouldn't do as well as Disney as developing the new, IP-focused Epcot that Disney envisions (more on that later this week). While I and many people who love this business welcome theme park attractions that inform and inspire people, if they don't first entertain the hell out of their audience... they're gonna fail.

So here's the lesson from the past 10 years of theme park attendance data. Wanna make a big leap up the chart? Get ready to invest a billion or more dollars in new attractions that connect people with the characters and settings that they love, with rides, shows, food and merchandise that entertains and enchants them.

Want to slip down the list? Add new rides that don't thrill or entertain visitors — or worse, add no new rides at all. And then hope that an inspiring message about... something, anything... will make up for the lack of fresh entertainment in your park.

Replies (84)

June 6, 2017 at 11:01 AM

Really an interesting article. Thanks

June 6, 2017 at 11:12 AM

There's a lot of good "tough love" here. One of the problems SW is having is that it's become more of a regional attraction due to the lack of hotels to keep a "captive audience" on-site combined with the Harry Potter/IP/spending explosion at Universal.

10 years ago: Universal and SW were evenly splitting the attentions of the "I'm spending a weekend at DW and looking for an attraction to spend a day outside of DW" crowd.

Nowadays, Universal is winning that crowd over 80-90% of the time. I know way too many DW regulars that take their kids over to Universal for a day and very few that are still going to SW.

When their kids age, maybe that will change and they'll want more aggressive rides like SW has to offer, but Harry Potter is still the biggest single factor that's shifted the dynamic and raised the Universal parks to the level of non-MK/DL Disney parks.

June 6, 2017 at 11:16 AM

I remember when the Antarctica attraction opened in Sea World. Folks on sites like this raved about it, the detail and such. There were serious comments on "SeaWorld is doing what Disney isn't anymore." And it did NOTHING to help move business along, just a massive waste of millions and proving how just opening a big new thing isn't enough when the rest of the park is suffering.

June 6, 2017 at 11:18 AM

As a Chicago resident, surprised to see Six Flags Great America ranking so high. I know Cedar Point is always considered the top Midwest theme park but usually, King's Island does better than SFGA so guess the recent pushes have helped. While it doesn't match Cedar, Great America does offer some awesome coasters (Batman celebrating its 25th anniversary this year) and am happy to see it getting more attention and respect.

June 6, 2017 at 11:21 AM

Here's my question: Is there a way for theme parks to remain competitive without committing $1 billion-plus dollars on an popular IP? Disney and Universal are spending more and more on single-land reveals, and while it's difficult to argue against their success, I wonder if it's the major investment or the popular IP that brings the crowds. Is there a way for a regional park to compete without the deep pockets of support?

June 6, 2017 at 11:28 AM

@Nick M: Cedar Fair and Six Flags are showing how to compete without budget breaking spending; they're staying in their lanes with modestly budgeted attractions for regional parks.

The problem for SW is that it's long been caught in the middle due to the importance of its Florida locations (they bring in over 50% of SW's global revenue).

SW has to compete and succeed in Tampa/Orlando because that's where their spending has gone historically; that wasn't as much of a problem before Harry Potter, when SW was comparable to Universal as an alternative day trip away for people spending the bulk of their time at Disney.

That's their biggest issue, they're extremely dependent on their Florida locations, and right now Disney and Universal are sucking up all the oxygen in Orlando. That will only become more problematic if Universal does manage to get to a 3rd gate.

June 6, 2017 at 11:34 AM

Another pattern that I see is that the highest parks in your list have all gotten massive improvements on the current park. DCA is the prime example.

I think you are onto something Robert. The science parks are (sadly) on a shaker ground. What is EPCOT's saving grace? It's the beer!

Then again, it would be interesting to compare Animal Kingdom to BGT. Those are the two parks that are the most similar. What is AK doing right that BGT isn't?

Shoutout to Great America! It's chugging along as one if he best Six Flags parks in the brand

June 6, 2017 at 12:01 PM

I never have been a fan of the circus. It makes me tense watching performers doing dangerous stuff by themselves or with wild animals.
Clearly I'm not alone due to the fact Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey stopped this year.
I've always enjoyed Sea World besides the shows but the "other" offerings played second fiddle to local marine parks (animal wise) and theme parks (regarding the rides compared to the big 2 in the orlando market).
I think in the end that is Sea Worlds biggest problem. They should be less circus and more local theme park. Maybe the new announced Sesame street land will bring a bit of change.

Resort theme parks get visitors due to people staying there a week and every extra day is costing less. That said I don't think that any of WDW's parks besides Magic Kingdom would survive as a standalone park at the moment. I'm glad Disney is investing finally to bring those parks into more favourable territories.

Universal finally has the sugar daddy who has the money and gives the creative freedom to have them produce new rides and themed experiences. Diversity in the rides is the main problem Universal is facing. Less screens would work well for the resort.

June 6, 2017 at 12:21 PM

One of the parks missing from this list is Dollywood. Robert notes that the Sea World/Busch Garden parks' lack of resort hotels could be a cause for their decreasing attendance numbers. However, Dollywood (a good sized, well rounded, and well themed regional park) does have the advantage of an on-site, company-owned and operated resort, yet the Tennessee park has yet to push into the top 20 despite pretty aggressive investments over the past 10 years. I also draw the comparison because the CEO of Sea World Parks and Entertainment is Joel Manby, the former CEO of Herschend, operators of Dollywood and other regional parks and attractions.

Sea World is definitely at a crossroads. If you look at Six Flags and Cedar Fair stocks, both continue on a steady upward trajectory, while Sea World is going in the wrong direction. The chain is clearly investing funds to hold onto whatever market share they can keep, but they're quickly losing ground to chains that have larger war chests. The pivot away from animals is another conundrum as not only do the animal attractions cost more to maintain than a typical theme park ride, but they represent the only way for the parks to differentiate themselves from other nearby theme parks. Manby is trying to do what Dollywood and Silver Dollar City did for over a decade as they slowly built on their mostly local customer bases. However, the most lucrative parks (San Diego and Orlando) are not positioned to be locals parks, yet are also not to set up to compete with Disney or a significantly improved Universal. Sea World needs to figure out something fast, whether it be re-calibrating their parks to a new target market or spending a huge chunk of money on IP to compete with Disney and Universal. The next 3-5 years will be very telling for the venerable chain.

Let's take a look at those DAK and DHS numbers in another 3-5 years to see if huge IP investments (Avatar and Star Wars) really pay dividends, and whether EPCOT needs to change its focus to stay in the picture (does the rising tide of Avatar and Star Wars lift all boats, or do people skip EPCOT in favor of relate-able IPs at DAK and DHS?).

June 6, 2017 at 12:37 PM

Fantastic analysis Robert! I can't disagree with anything you have highlighted. Ultimately, how can SeaWorld or Busch Gardens now compete with Universal or Disney without adding fully immersive lands offering state-of-the-art thrill attractions all wrapped up in an IP loved by tens of millions? I cannot see anyway back now for SeaWorld in Orlando unless it decides on a paradigm shift to be an out-and-out thrill park, first and foremost, with the eco message/animal interaction elements relegated to a supporting role. But even that may not work as they don't have the bucks to really compete.

June 6, 2017 at 1:46 PM

Robert...If you look at absolute numbers and not just percentages, why do you think that MK was up about 3.4 million (in the ballpark of USF and IoA) without the type of investment and mega lands like HP? Even DAK and Epcot were up well over a miilion guests per year, with little added. Do you think this is a case of more people simply visiting central Florida, and visiting Disney, even if they came for a stay at Universal?

June 6, 2017 at 1:59 PM

I'm surprised by the numbers. If you combine UO and IOA, as most tourists do, they're not far behind MK. Maybe par, if you factor in ticket prices. Must admit that their theming has been excellent recently, although I've yet to see Pandora.

June 6, 2017 at 2:12 PM

Great analysis. One area I think you underreport is the investments--sometimes foolhardy--that Disney and Universal have made in hotels. While the budget balance was off at Disneyland's DCA 1.0, with too much spent on hotels and Downtown Disney and not enough on the park itself, you can't fight the fact that those investments continue to pay off.

SeaWorld has clearly underinvested at onsite hotels at all its parks. SeaWorld was particularly stymied by the fact that when AB sold off the parks, they cleverly kept the land around SeaWorld Orlando and sold it off piecemeal to a bunch of third-tier motels and restaurants. AB made more money. SWO got a clumsy, not-walkable "resort area" that mainly means 90s-era matching low signage and some water-themed stickers inside the neighboring hotels. If they had done what Disney and Universal had done in CA--say, build Aquatica, a hotel and shopping/eating are where the SWO parking lot is now, and build a parking deck where Aquatica is--this may be a different tale. Same goes for its regional parks--why not build hotels with indoor water parks at SW San Antonio and BGW where land is plenty? It's just another of the many missed opportunities.

June 6, 2017 at 3:22 PM

What has happened is that Universal identified something that many people adore- Harry Potter, and they did it right. An analogy in the movie industry is what Disney has done with Marvel. There are tons of comic book fans, but for years the studios have failed to be faithful to the spirit of the comics. Now Disney has figured out that it is profitable to treat the material with respect, and look where they are now. A counterpoint is what Fox has done with the Fantastic Four. Anytime you play up to a significant fan base, you stand to succeed. If Universal went cheap with Harry Potter, it would not have been near as successful. A real question is what are the numbers for the San Diego Zoo and other zoos that make substantial improvements. That would be interesting. I will say again that Disney really, really needs to do something with FP+ before Star Wars opens or they will have a PR nightmare on their hands. I think they should have opened a fifth gate in Orlando for it, but we will see.

June 6, 2017 at 3:40 PM

SeaWorld needs to change their expectations. They can't compete with Disney and Comcast, but they can certainly make great money with the attendance they are getting. Personally I like the idea of them focusing on thrill rides and beautiful, decorative parks (like BGW). There needs to be more big coasters in Orlando, for sure... and SeaWorld can provide those additions at a relatively modest cost.

I am adding a day at SeaWorld to my Pandora trip just to ride Mako, and their online ticket prices are in line with most regional parks. Still, they need to keep prices down and thrills high and they will capture that "extra day" market.

June 6, 2017 at 3:47 PM

I find the differences in the perception of the "Sea World" brand between the US and the unrelated Australian parks interesting... Any time there was some sort of sea animal in distress or some sort of disaster affecting sea animals, the words "Sea World Animal Rescue" would be said in even the briefest news report. That sort of "soft" branding/Advertising is something that money can't buy

June 6, 2017 at 4:38 PM

Walt Disney World attendance (2007-2016) - 534,760,000

Universal Orlando attendance (2007-2016) - 139,600,000


June 6, 2017 at 4:41 PM

The power of a documentary like "Blackfish" should never be underestimated. I never even saw the film, but the mere existence of it is enough for me to never want to visit SeaWorld again.

Last time I was at SeaWorld Orlando, I didn't like how the park was very sporadically laid out and not as tight as the Disney and Universal parks.

June 6, 2017 at 4:53 PM

Where was Universal before Harry Potter, Disney before addding new parks across the Globe. Sea World in San Diego does not have allot of extra land to expand with like some of the parks do. Trying to get things built harder than you think in that part od San Diego.We still have beer,Manta Atlantis, opened up Ocean Explorer area this past weekend, The NEW Orca show/education show is MUCH BETTER than the previous show in my opinion. If S.W. could do the roar n snore like the Zoo or Wild Animal park for adults not just kids an families that would be a plus.Yes they need a hotel on site w themed rooms like Disneyland Resort have once again land red tape.Give it time. Disney has the new GOTG ride aka TOT Star Wars land in 2019, so many promotions going on to draw people in, and yes they have raised prices on everything from 1 day ticket peak time or non peak times to the English Breakfast tea bags. Curious to know how other Disney Parks would rank on this list.SW cant compeat with Harry Potter unless they bring back kisses from Shamu.the Mouse No, Zoological Society maybe.BGin Tampa they have land. What Sea World needs parking structure, Hotel, more rides maybe just my opinion. all my passes in SoCal. Run cheaper than 1 park 1 day non peak time at Disney. Sea World is Education has been and will be.It was dolphins,seals turtles,Sea Stars (starfish) touch feel the animals. Yes people are more interested in H.P.GOTG,Heros but to me that plot of land with sharks I can touch, have my hands cleaned by fish, free meal w my pass,do a sky ride as Sun sets I LOVE IT. Rides will always be here Animals wont. Oh dont get me wrong I have passes for them all. I enjoy them each. S.W. was my 1st.pass still have it. Bottom line who has the sponsors, revenue and land to do. Sad to see where some parks ended up. Let see what the future holds for ALL PARKS.

June 6, 2017 at 5:37 PM

I think Sea world has been simply responding to market forces far beyond their control. There will always be those who value animal conservation such as zoos/aquariums/Sea World and those who oppose. Like everything in modern society it is probably evenly divided down the middle. Universal and Disney are relatively exempt from such glaring polarity and as such, Sea World's attendance will always be somewhere close to the major zoos, aquariums and roller coaster parks, since that is what they offer. I don't think Sea World could ever last long on the Disney/Universal competition plane and it was only a matter of time before their attendance dropped. There was a 2nd themed destination/ Disney alternative vacuum in Orlando which has now been thoroughly filled by Universal, at Sea World's expense. I don't see a never ending spiral for Sea World but rather a market correction. Their attenance is still higher than most of the major Roller coaster parks which supports my assertion. I believe that soon Sea Worlds attendance decline will finally stabilize as it finds it's new niche as an aquarium/roller coaster park that it is.

June 6, 2017 at 5:37 PM

SeaWorld suffers from negative association. The animal activists made a mess of SeaWorld's image that's hard to repair. The circus suffered the same fate with RingLing Brothers' closure. It's a double edged sword. The people that want to see the animal acts are not enough to overcome the audiences that refuse to see them. There are no winners. SeaWorld is settling down to be a large aquarium. Oddly, there's no shortage of aquariums at major cities. People do enjoy watching captive animals. Perhaps take a page from Animal Planet's Tanked show by building ornate, over-the-top aquarium exhibits. Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific continues to expand with impressive exhibits.

Disney's Animal Kingdom went away from animal exhibits a long time ago with it's "Natazu" promotion. Who knew it was the correct approach? This is exactly what SeaWorld must do. Perhaps do mythical animals like the mysterious Yeti or Avatar's Banshees that's a big hit.

SeaWorld is partnering with foreign companies in Dubai and China. This is a lifeline.

June 6, 2017 at 6:22 PM

@TH Quite right. It was a landslide victory. No photo finish required. Gratz, Comcast!

June 6, 2017 at 6:33 PM

Very on point Robert , I would only say that seaworld until the last few years, was not undercapitalized. I would venture they spent much bigger bucks than six flags or cedar fair but the effectiveness of its spend was negative !! Why ? Because it didnt do its homework on the right attractions , responded late to the universal potter, wasted countless $ on failed projects, bad execution on good ideas, in addition to the negative publicity impacts and in general had no strategic vision. Manby and his team haven't helped either, their track record of new attractions is evident with San Diego's pathetic ocean explorer, Rudolph Cut outs and a new "bubble " show in Orlando , hardly gate turners .. on the other hand Busch gardens parks are somewhat insulated from the orlando market as it is well supported by a large tampa and VA metros .. generally those parks have vibrated around the 3M (VA) 4M (tampa) mark for years depending on the attraction entries .. in short the seaworld parks are the clear problem in the chain

June 6, 2017 at 6:35 PM


Disney is playing a different game, and we both know that.

If this were a tournament, Universal just won the first round... but Disney is sitting on a bye, awaiting them in the next round. How about that analogy?

June 6, 2017 at 6:39 PM

For everyone who insists that SeaWorld was harmed by "Blowfish," how do you explain Busch Gardens' also-miserable performance? SW was doomed after the AB sale, without a more compelling creative and business strategy... and the capital to fulfill it.

What can SW/BG do now? It appears that - absent a sale that would provide access to capital and IP - the best course is to bottom out and then try to carry on as a regional day-trip amusement park chain, as a third player with Cedar Fair and Six Flags.

June 6, 2017 at 8:03 PM

Good points about the impact of not having the free beers at Sea World and Busch Gardens. I visited Sea World in Orlando in 2008 when they still had the beer (though I believe they had been sold), and it was a nice perk. I think another thing that's hurt those parks is how many days people are now spending at Disney and Universal now. There's also Legoland to possibly take another day away. People only have so much time and money to spend on a trip, and the draw just isn't there.

June 6, 2017 at 8:57 PM

@Robert, I think it might be more appropriate to say that Disney is the perennial champion, Universal is a playoff contender, and SeaWorld can't get past 8-8.

June 6, 2017 at 9:31 PM

I remember when Sea World opened the Antarctica spot and places like this were going nuts on the detail, the lush experience, all of it. There were even comments of "Sea World doing it better than Disney." And it did nothing to help business, soon talk of it badly maintained and just a massive waste of money. Spending millions like this means nothing if the final product is going to be something that just can't entice people.

June 6, 2017 at 9:34 PM

I admit a pleasant surprise Six Flags Great America ranks so high. Cedar Point gets the press but Great America is one of the best parks of the Six Flags chain, fantastic selection of coasters. My nephew was just there for a school trip and talked of how busy it was and major crowds. That's without the addition of the new Joker ride and folks celebrating 25th anniversary of the Batman ride (still one of the best of its kind). Surprised still to see it high, beating out King's Island but well worth it, good to see their own work paying off.

June 6, 2017 at 10:06 PM

Owners of Seaword should close the parks and convert them into waterfront condos with integrated entertainment for aging theme park lovers .

June 6, 2017 at 10:30 PM

SeaWorld suffered much more than Busch Gardens. Their performance can't be compared especially since they are in different markets and SW is competing more directly in Disney and Universal's line of sight. SeaWorld's double whammy of bad press from Blackfish and poor critical response from its new attractions and Shamu itself means it'll take a long time to work itself out. The latest bad decision is extending the Sesame Street IP. Few kids watch it and it is now exclusively on HBO. Six Flags is doing well with the focus on DC superheroes.

June 6, 2017 at 11:40 PM

I knew when I saw Sea World's Antartica {ride} that it was going to be a huge disappointment. The ride itself stunk, they should have wowed us more with the actual habitat for the penguins. It could have been exciting. So they wasted money instead on a lame so-called
ride before the penguins. My instincts told me they blew it.
They do not have "big dreamers" at Sea World. They had an opportunity to "raise the bar", and instead, lowered it.
The new Sea World San Diego "Ocean Explorer" is an even bigger disappointment. They keep doing "un-amazing" things and now they are in a hole. The wrong people are making the creative decisions.

June 7, 2017 at 12:22 AM

This is an industry in which Disney and Universal spend $100 million + to build one ride, or a billion + for one land. So of course Sea World and others can't keep pace with that. But if they don't have the same enormous development costs, then maybe they don't need to have the same attendance.

June 7, 2017 at 12:57 AM

MikeW, I would recommend taking a closer look at the numbers before saying Great America beat Kings Island. The list is in order of growth percentage which is the only figure Great America bests Kings Island. KI attendance grew by 334,000 while GA grew by 320,000 and the gap between them went from 420,000 to 434,000. KI has both higher attendance and total attendance growth.

Kings Island also added a new roller coaster, Mystic Timbers, this year that will likely boost attendance. Great America is a great park though and deserves its success. I went last year and had a blast, especially on the new Justice League ride. If the new Joker coaster is like the one I rode this year at Magic Mountain then I'm afraid the park may have its first bad coaster. I didn't get to ride the indoor Batman one though. While the Batman invert is a great ride it wouldn't be near the top of my bests list. The new ones usually don't have that same compact experience which makes the older inverts a nice diversion.

June 7, 2017 at 3:50 AM

Come on! This thread demonstrates the tendancy for TPI to cheerlead on behalf of Universal.

Observe this collection of headlines from the last six months:

"Are Disney theme park tickets still a great entertainment value?" (2/16/17). The article was supported by a survey to judge whether Disney was worth the money after a price increase. After Universal saw fit to match the increase TPI did not see fit offer a similar headline or give readers a chance to similarly evaluate Universal's decision.

"Disney parks slip, but remain atop global theme park attendance report." (6/1/17). While technically true (if you buy the accuracy of the TEA/AECOM accounting), in my never humble opinion a drop of 271 guests per day in a park that (according to the report) welcomes a daily average of 55,700 people is hardly worth a negative Disney headline. The same story could have been published under the headline "Universal continues to climb" rather than take a shot at Disney.

"Art isn't sport: Why Disney fans can embrace Universal, too." (6/4/17) I mean seriously? Really? Have you read the stuff posted here by NB, OT or Applebutter? Why couldn't the headline read "Art isn't sport: Why Universal fans can embrace Disney, too."? The headline’s implication, that it's Disney fans who are down on Universal rather than the reverse, is laughable at best. How many posts do we see where Universal fans rip Disney for the pace of their attraction development? I mean I enjoy trolling the Universal crowd with mindless snark here and there (emphasis on the "mindless") but I am also the guy who wrote (responding to technical problems on the Potter EFG): "From my perspective the so-called "glitches" (at Gringott’s) are an affirmation that Universal Creative is fearless. Never cutting it cheap and always pushing the envelope. In the weeks ahead the technical challenges will be addressed and Universal Creative will maintain its standing as the gold standard in themed entertainment." The headline on your June 4th article could have been written "Art isn't sport: Why theme park fans can embrace both Disney and Universal."

You know I carry a substantial level of respect for you and the stunning accomplishments you have achieved with TPI ... But claiming that Universal "won" the last decade and then shaping what exactly the game was to accommodate Universal's stats? Please.

June 7, 2017 at 4:37 AM

@TH Creative - have to disagree with the cheerleading assertion here. As an annual passholder for both Universal and Sea World/Busch Gardens who attends regularly, there is absolutely no question which park is on an upward trajectory and which park(s) are heading in the opposite direction. Mako is arguably the best coaster in Orlando and is far too often a 5-10 minute wait. Attendance at SW on most days is anaemic. With that said, I love all of the parks. And all of the parks have their strengths and faults. I am not a Disney AP nor attend Disney regularly. So for me, it doesn't matter how Disney stacks up against the parks where I do attend. I never have understood the tribal support for one park vs another.

@James Raoul - you won't be disappointed. Mako is one of the best coaster experiences in Orlando.

June 7, 2017 at 5:09 AM

I think the point Robert was trying to make is that Universal has the largest jump in attendance. They have shown the "best improvement" over all other parks.

The key is to compete for second place. Disney is going to bring the people in, but if they can peel a day or two off a Disney vacation, that is considered a success. Universal has now clearly become the alternative to Disney. That really isn't news on this site, but it is obvious now.

Great America also benefits being outside of the third largest city in the US (as Great Adventure does as well). Still, it is a pretty solid park.

June 7, 2017 at 5:13 AM

@Jeremygary "R-A-O", long A, long O. The Italian in me is not happy with the Frenchandization of my last name! ;)

I am sure the Rao Family will have a great time repeatedly riding Mako, Manta, and Kraken. And you, my friend, if you like the grace, speed, and power of Mako, you must, if you have not already done so, head north to the South/North Carolina border and Carowinds. There awaits you Fury 325, which is among the greatest coasters ever constructed. So good....

I would that Disney or Comcast would flex their large financial muscles to build a narrative hyper coaster some day! Contrary to the beliefs of a timid few, the vast majority of theme park fans are also coaster fans and would love to see what Imagineering/Creative could do to amp up the theme on a one of a kind B&M screamer....

June 7, 2017 at 5:26 AM

TH misses the point, as usual. Universal earned their success over the last 10 years. With the exception of California Adventure, Disney management has coasted on Walt's accomplishments for the last 20 years. Most of us on this site love both Disney and Universal. It's current Disney management that we can't stand. Iger and Chapek must go. The sooner, the better.

June 7, 2017 at 5:26 AM

James Raoul is right !!!!

June 7, 2017 at 5:38 AM

Grrrr... can't believe you would pile on your only supporter and most generous book reviewer! Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal, TH Creative!!!

June 7, 2017 at 6:07 AM

Roberts bias has never show itself half as much as @THCreative 's

June 7, 2017 at 6:12 AM

@TH It's easy to say that the attendance at Disney World is up over Universal, but that's not a very insightful takeaway from the statistics that Robert shared. It's like watching a football game where one team is up the whole game, but then the other team starts gaining and you say, "Well they have more points right now so they're the winner!"

Disney is clearly the current leader in Orlando in terms of size and attendance, and Universal has a long way to go before it could ever be considered an equal rival. But the gains the resort has made in the past ten years show that Universal is making a power play in an effort to one day gain that title.

As far as the "bias" of articles on this site, it is basic human instinct to pay attention to the up-and-comer over the leader. I think that if Disney and Universal switched places, the same would happen in the other direction. Disney is the shining example, which attracts constructive criticism, and Universal is growing at a substantial rate because it has somewhere to grow.

June 7, 2017 at 6:32 AM

"I never even saw the film, but the mere existence of it is enough for me to never want to visit SeaWorld again."

@RKvid - How in the world can you base your opinion of a park based on a documentary you state you've never seen? Talk about kneeling to propaganda. You form an opinion of something based on innuendo and what you think a movie is about, not actually an opinion formed by watching the movie based on ideas presented by the film. This is exactly why "fake news" exists, because people don't even need to read an article or watch a report to be convinced of an opinion about a controversial subject. People like @RKvid are the "mindless drones" that are destroying our world.

June 7, 2017 at 6:39 AM

Maximum respect to Mr. Rao (didn't know about the long"a") and Mr. Niles.

June 7, 2017 at 7:35 AM

@TH - Shouldn't we applaud Universal for doing things the right way and putting some pressure on Disney to do better in the process?

After seeing the reviews of Tokyo DisneySea and looking at the relative similarity of attendance at TDS and TDL (80-90%), can anybody say that Disney was truly giving us their best product in the USA where the ugly stepsisters (Epcot, AK, DHS, and DCA V1) were pulling 60-65% of the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland?

Is there any excuse for the 3rd oldest Disney park in the entire world (Epcot) to soon be having the 4th lowest attendance in Orlando (or 5th or 6th if Universal Orlando keeps at it)?

Do we even need to bring Disney Studios Paris into the discussion?

The facts are that for the last half of the Eisner regime and the first half of the Iger era, Disney sat on their well-deserved laurels and did as little as possible to upgrade their parks, and a lot of us noticed it and didn't like it, but we had nothing to judge the performance of Disney by except for the past performance of Disney. Then along came Universal in the 2010's, just like the Japanese cars and electronics in the 1970's, then a lot of us realized that Disney could do better by their fans.

And yes, there is a little bit of anti-Disney bias on this site, but you as an oldtimer know exactly why it is there. When Robert first started this site almost 2 decades ago if any posts were in the least disparaging about Disney or too positive about Universal, the wrath of the Disney fanatics was made known. Back then, it was literally impossible to find a theme park website that wasn't dominated by the Disney Kool-Aid drinkers. So a lot of Disney skeptics ended up here where we at least could express our frustration as well as our satisfaction with Disney without a flame war starting.

And let's be honest here when it comes to re-defining headlines on articles. Except for a relatively small minority of theme park fans who look at a Universal vacation first and then a Disney visit later, most people are Disney first, Disney second, and Disney third, and Universal is a far distant afterthought. So it is entirely fair to title an article "Art isn't sport: Why Disney fans can embrace Universal, too" because the vast majority of theme park fans are Disney fans and not Universal fans.

June 7, 2017 at 7:38 AM

Oh, by the way, great article Robert!

June 7, 2017 at 7:42 AM

@Russell, Hear Hear!

@TH, Apology accepted!

June 7, 2017 at 7:57 AM

You don't have to spend millions on attractions to be successful , As a local who works at a Theme park (Not Sea World) and has an annual pass for the other .Many of my local freinds think Sea World had the best xmas events , with the sea of trees and the Rudolf Village .It was def the best holiday feel and I'm sure it didn't cost loads .Just a well done event.

June 7, 2017 at 8:54 AM

While the theme park industry isn't a zero-sum game, Universal is hurting Disney attendance figures in Orlando.

If the already crowded Magic Kingdom can grow almost 20% in in the last decade and the secondary Disney World parks grow attendance only by 14.3% (AK), 13.3% (DHS), and 7.2% (Epcot), then there are a lot of secondary visits going somewhere other than the Ugly Stepsisters. That somewhere else is Universal Orlando.

Considering that the US population went up 7% over the last decade, Disney execs really have reason to be concerned. Attendance at the Magic Kingdom went up a normalized 13%, AK about 7.3%, and DHS about 6.3%. Epcot was flat. Disney is leaving an awful lot of money on the table when it comes to the performance of their secondary parks, and that's not something they're known for.

June 7, 2017 at 9:24 AM

Watching TH have a meltdown like a kid in a mall is pretty epic....

June 7, 2017 at 9:26 AM

Mr. Hillman writes: "If the already crowded Magic Kingdom can grow almost 20% in in the last decade and the secondary Disney World parks grow attendance only by 14.3% (AK), 13.3% (DHS), and 7.2% (Epcot), then there are a lot of secondary visits going somewhere other than the Ugly Stepsisters. That somewhere else is Universal Orlando."

I respond: Or they spent a second day in the Magic Kingdom. Or they spent a day at Typhoon Lagoon. Or they spent a day at the beach. Or they spent a day at the hotel pool. Or they spent a day shopping at the Premium Outlet. Or they spent a day at Blizzard Beach.

June 7, 2017 at 9:33 AM

A Universal note from Inside Universal...It was just announced that Nintendo Land construction starts tomorrow in Japan with an anticipated early 2020 completion date.

June 7, 2017 at 9:36 AM

Tim, I'm spending my extra day at SeaWorld! Gotta increase that coaster count every summer or I'll lose my street cred. Wouldn't want the Golden Ticket folks to take away my Coaster Boy Membership Card! Throw your hands up in the air and wave like you just don't care, baby!!!

June 7, 2017 at 9:50 AM

"I respond: Or they spent a second day in the Magic Kingdom. Or they spent a day at Typhoon Lagoon. Or they spent a day at the beach. Or they spent a day at the hotel pool. Or they spent a day shopping at the Premium Outlet. Or they spent a day at Blizzard Beach."

Or their normal vacation was a day or 2 shorter than it was in previous years because the cost for an Orlando vacation (WDW or UO) has increased faster than the average household income.

As all of the parks age while admission prices are skyrocketing, you're seeing guests trying to extract as much value as they can out of their limited vacation funds. If that means visiting 2 parks in 1 day to hit the "highlights" or skipping parks that have nothing new since the last visit, guests are trying to make their relatively stagnant vacation budget stretch as far as possible. While there are more people on the whole visiting Orlando, I think we're approaching a critical mass in how far guests are willing to extend their trips and will continually look to get more for their dollar.

June 7, 2017 at 9:51 AM

As a visitor from the UK we love ALL Orlando theme parks, for entirely different reasons. We do actively encourage all of our friends who are visiting, if they haven't already done so, to buy Seaworld's a nicely landscaped park with great shows and coasters. We love the additional animal exhibits and taking a day (or has been the case 2) days to just chill out at a less hectic pace. Any criticism of Seaworld should be taken in's still one of the top theme parks in the world, and arguably better than anything we have in the UK. I wish it got more support, especially from locals in Florida (I heard plenty of grumbles from Uber drivers)

Universal should be commended for their investment, although I feel a lot of it has been misguided over the past couple of years. Disney is just has a pull over me that others can't match but the parks do feel severely underbuilt for the crowds they attract. It can, if your not in the Disney spirit, make a deeply unpleasurable experience. The studios park feels criminal at the moment (although the highlights save it from complete disaster), Epcot dated in places and MK, despite having a huge number of rides, still feeling undebuilt

June 7, 2017 at 10:37 AM

Funny, TPI just did an article talking about Disney vs Universal fans. Personally, I love both, maybe a bit more Disney as been there 30 times but I greatly enjoy Universal as well. Can't we talk the business without it turning into "you MUST love one more than the other?"

June 7, 2017 at 10:55 AM

NB said "Watching TH have a meltdown like a kid in a mall is pretty epic"

Indeed. Disney fanboys are so thin skinned :-D

June 7, 2017 at 11:14 AM

DBCooper - This is an annual meltdown. Those TEA/AECOM numbers keep him up at night.

June 7, 2017 at 11:28 AM

Im not sure but i think that the problem lies with the fact that the busch family sold everything and the new company is still deciding on what to do

June 7, 2017 at 11:33 AM

Somewhere in Orlando, TH Creative is "air fishing" and smiling manically while he sets the hook and reels in the fish.....

June 7, 2017 at 11:43 AM

I'm really surprised that attendance at BGW has declined insofar as they added 3 coasters in the past 5 years and new attractions usually boost attendance.

@James Rao - it's nice to finally know how to pronounce your name. I'd always assumed that it was pronounced like chiao or tao.

June 7, 2017 at 11:46 AM

Bobbie, it's that the entire Sea World/Busch Gardens brand has fallen apart since AB was sold and the parks not getting the same love and push they once had.

June 7, 2017 at 11:53 AM

Having been a previous Orlando resident, I can say that getting to Sea World is a pain. Once you're there, you can ride some great roller coasters, and do the whole Antarctic Penguins thing, but even if they had an on-site, themed hotel, who would stay? Sea World is NOT a 2-day park.

With that said, I'd love to see them get creative with the property. Perhaps go the parking structure route, a la Disney Springs and Universal. Then with a bit of space freed up where the parking lot currently is, expand the park, adding another great (B&M) coaster.

The bones and ride system of the Antarctic Penguins thing is solid, but they need to close it, and re-theme it to an IP that kids can identify with. Then, buy a nearby hotel like Disney has just done in CA, and run a short monorail to a hub with walkways to both SW and Aquatica.

Then they just need to figure out how and where to add a shopping and dining complex, and they'll finally be on the right track.


Oh, and it'd probably cost about $3b. So yeah, going the regional park route is going to have to be their plan. Aim low, and you won't be disappointed.

AWESOME article, Robert!

June 7, 2017 at 12:11 PM

@Gabriel - You're forgetting the biggest reason Sea World needs to add a hotel - Discovery Cove. The "luxury" limited admission park right next door to Sea World is a perfect opportunity for Sea World to upsell an on-site hotel stay. The guests visiting Discovery Cove are already shelling out big bucks for a single day admission, so it should be easy to package it with 2nd day at Sea World along with perhaps a 3rd day at Aquatica along with a hotel night or 2. Running a hotel is very different from running a theme park, and Sea World has decidedly left that to their "partner" hotels, but if they do choose to venture into that business, Discovery Cove should be what's used as leverage to capture that additional revenue.

June 7, 2017 at 12:17 PM

Ironically, we are booking our UOR trip today. Free flights with all of my Southwest points, my wife booked Hard Rock Club level through NEA, and with her discount it came out to $60 more per night than a standard 2 queen pool / garden view room.

Club Level gives you free continental breakfast, all sorts of snacks throughout the day, and unlimited soft drinks, beer, wine and desserts etc...

She also gets a discount on the rental car, which she is looking up right now. My last order of business is to purchase the park tickets and we are all set.

We are heading to Clearwater afterwards for four days, and we are going to Busch Gardens as well. Looking forward to the new rides, and I am definitely getting Unlimited Quick Queue. That two hour wait for Cheetah Hunt last time we were there will not fly.

This will be the first time we are skipping Sea World or Discovery Cove. The last time we were there (Sea World), it was very run down and the air was not working in half of the gift shops. None, I repeat none, of the coasters were functioning for almost the entire day. Manta & Kraken were down, and the flume ride was emptied of water.

The Gestapo tactics at Discovery Cove to make you purchase a $125+ photo package is another reason why we aren't going back.

I will be happy to write up a trip report afterwards, as we haven't been to Busch Gardens in quite some time. This will be our first Club Level experience, so I would like to share my thoughts after we return.

June 7, 2017 at 12:47 PM

@MikeW - I don't think the decline of the brand is solely to do with the AB divestment. The parks were pretty autonomous under AB management, and they still had to demonstrate positive cash flow to ensure future investment. When InBev bought AB and made it clear they had no interest in managing theme parks, it looked like Blackstone, investor in other theme parks around the world, would leave well enough along when they purchased controlling interest in the chain. What I feel caused the decline was that Blackstone tried to fix something that wasn't necessarily broken. Sea World was forced to increase profitability just to secure minimal investment, and that cost cutting was evident across the chain. Blackstone had managed theme parks before, but the Sea World Parks were (and continue to be) pretty unique in the industry with their animal exhibits and specialty labor that most theme parks simply don't deal with. Sea World Parks employ some of the most unique workers in the world (not just animal trainers but artists and performers) that at the time were very different from what Blackstone had encountered in previous theme park investment investments. The connections and bonds the parks had created with talent were forged over years of experience, but the role of these people on the payroll was now being questioned from a financial perspective (as evidenced by the fact that many theatrical performers were forcibly transitioned from full time employees with benefits and security to contract employees essentially working month to month).

A marine biologist does not directly translate to revenue on a financial statement like a front line employee or attraction investment, and Blackstone saw these expenditures as bells and whistles on a machine they felt needed to run leaner. Capital investment in the parks, that under AB used to be as simple as a municipality issuing a bond, now became a huge struggle to under Blackstone to get new projects funded and existing projects renewed that could not demonstrate a direct financial benefit.

Also, without proper experience at the top of running a theme park chain, the parks were instead operated like any run of the mill company, meaning the natural ebbs and flows in the theme park business were scrutinized to a level never before seen, frustrating managers and creating a revolving door of experienced talent among all of the parks. I think with Manby in charge, who has direct experience managing a theme park chain, operations, project development, and other aspects of running the business, Sea World can fall in line with what other theme park chains do. While cost control is still a huge part of what the chain has to do because of its investors, I think Manby has the clout and been given some level of freedom to make tough financial decisions without having to demonstrate immediate profitability. The question remains, did Blackstone already dig the hole too deep before reaching for the Manby life line?

June 7, 2017 at 1:41 PM

I'm willing to agree Universal won the first round. Disney was sitting on its laurels, and thought it could do more of the same in Paris and the world would simply beat a path to its door because its Disney. The US parks were kinda neglected with limited investment. Universal gave them the kick up the backside to push them back into the A-Game.

June 7, 2017 at 2:10 PM

Sorry, Russell Meyer but I have to disagree on many points .. seaworld management after InBev and blackston was essentially the same as AB ..and that team had many years running the parks successfully ... and Manby and team .. well the results speak for themselves over the last few years .. were not the "A"team and certainly creatively missed many marks ... and yes that's what private equity (blackstone ) does .. they try to increase their investment return .. blackstone did it with universal as well so you can't solely blame them .. there are many issues with seaworld but the Busch Gardens parks are not in an attendance free fall as they have held up quite well ...the year comparisons above are misleading to the normal ebb and flow of their attendance based on new attractions

June 7, 2017 at 2:25 PM

I must say, that I simply don't get the hate for Antarctica. I found it to be a delightful ride that was a welcome break from the coaster/thrill madness you can find in the rest of SeaWorld. If you want a true flop, the 10-month delay of Rivers of Light is the best contender.

June 7, 2017 at 3:03 PM

James, that whole area is congested and they gave no thought to line of sight. You feel almost trapped in that section, it is hard to explain. The bright white / fake snow is blinding as well. On top of all this, the ride itself is a bit underwhelming, especially when the wait time was close to three hours when we were there.

I would re-name it "Cincinnati Time Waste" (nod to the Simpsons).

June 7, 2017 at 5:28 PM

@NB: I'm guessing you visited opening year. I went to SeaWorld 5 times last year, which included summer and Christmas crowds. The area felt quite empty most days and I never waited more than 45 minutes. I still marvel at how much freedom the guests and penguins are given in the exhibit. Regardless, I remember how overhyped the ride was, so I do understand everyone's disappointment.

June 8, 2017 at 4:20 AM

@James Rao - sorry, autocomplete chimed in on your name and I didn't even realize.

My parents live 10 minutes from Carrowinds and I still haven't been there when the park was open since 325 went up. Hopefully this summer.

Sea World has such a diverse and great collection of coasters. Only a few more days until we see how Kraken Unleashed fits into their coaster portfolio. I am open minded and hope it is really good, but realistically anticipate being fully underwhelmed. Even if the ride itself is great, I anticipate load times to be interminable. Sea World says there will be more staff to accommodate the loading process, but that goes counter to what SW/BG is currently doing by eliminating every breathing human being possible from their payroll.

June 8, 2017 at 5:22 AM

^Not a problem on the me, you arent the first one to suffer from auto- complete/correct syndrome. Besides, TH Creative spells my name incorrectly all the time - I think it is an act of respect. At least, that's what I tell myself.

Keep me posted on the lines and wait times for Kraken Unleashed... We'll be at the park sometime in August, so operationally they should have things down to a science. But you're right, without the proper staffing, even a short line can last forever!

June 8, 2017 at 7:34 AM

@ - I think you are mistaken. When Blackstone took over after InBev divested the business, certainly many of the local management stayed the same (though they did a lot of "rearranging of deck chairs" with park managers swapping spots with each other around the country. However, at the corporate level, a lot of that hierarchy changed, and there was an intense scrutiny in cost control and revenue enhancement. That philosophical change to a more dollars and cents approach to management of the chain was stark, and has continued, even after Manby has taken over the reigns. He has only been CEO at Sea World for a little over 2 years BTW, so I don't think you can draw any conclusions as to his success after such a short term in the position - most CEOs take 3-5 years to make a significant impact at a new firm, and in the theme park industry it can take even longer with projects planned years in advance.

June 8, 2017 at 7:37 AM

James, I was kind of glad to find out how to pronounce your name because I've been mentally mispronouncing it for years, but...

when you typed "R-A-O", long A, long O." that stupid Banana Boat song popped into my head and I couldn't get the conga drums to stop!

and then I started messing with the lyrics and it got worse

"Ray-o, ray-o
Rope drop come and me wan' go ride
Ray, me say ray, me say ray, me say ray
Me say ray, me say ray-o
Rope drop come and me wan' go ride"

I gotta get back on my medication or I'm going to end up like TH Creative.

June 8, 2017 at 8:48 AM

@ James RAO I will be heading to SW on 6/13 for their AP preview event for Kraken Unleashed. A much needed day off from work.

June 8, 2017 at 10:51 AM

One more anecdote as data point: not to sound like an alcoholic, but the free beer was absolutely what made SW/BG as appealing as other parks to me. Not the only reason worth going, of course, but a big equalizer in the calculation of where to spend our limited time/money. With that incentive now gone, I don't see myself choosing these parks over the others that have spent so much more money on upkeep and new attractions.

June 8, 2017 at 1:12 PM

So @, you make your vacation decisions around two 8-ounce pours of beer? I agree it was a nice perk, but if that's what got you through the gate, then why haven't other parks resorted to handing out freebies in the park to boost attendance?

June 11, 2017 at 4:34 AM

@Tim Nicely done! Thank you for the serenade! ;)

@Jeremy Days off are indeed precious - Enjoy!

June 11, 2017 at 4:34 AM

@Russell Thanks for staying on subject unlike some of these other bozos... especially that Rayovac guy!

June 10, 2017 at 2:39 PM

NB writes: "Watching TH have a meltdown like a kid in a mall is pretty epic...."

And ...

NB writes: "DBCooper - This is an annual meltdown. Those TEA/AECOM numbers keep him up at night."

I Respond: Great to read that you and your family are coming to Central Florida on holiday. Sounds like you worked an amazing deal. I would LOVE the opportunity to buy you a pint or two. You can reach me at

Cheers and best wishes!

June 11, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Having just watched a vid of San Diego Sea World's new attraction "Submarine Quest" they don't need a documentary like Blackfish to make the park look rubbish and amateur, they can manage to do that perfectly well by themselves.

June 12, 2017 at 2:08 PM

You're right, Robert. I really have no interest in paying to look at animals. And I'll take The World Famous Jungle Cruise over Kilimanjaro Safaris every time.

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