August Return Targeted for Busch Gardens Williamsburg

July 29, 2020, 2:01 PM · SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. this morning announced its preliminary financial results for the second quarter of 2020. As expected, the theme park chain lost a ton of money while its parks were closed due to the pandemic. But the big news in the report is that SeaWorld is expecting to begin reopening its Busch Gardens Williamsburg park next month.

SeaWorld's Busch Gardens Tampa, SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Antonio parks reopened in June, with Sesame Place returning last week. That left Busch Gardens Williamsburg and SeaWorld San Diego yet to reopen. California is showing no sign of allowing theme parks to return any time soon, but SeaWorld apparently believes that it will get approval soon for the return of its Virginia park.

"The Company expects its Busch Gardens theme park in Virginia to commence a phased reopening in early August 2020 and continues to monitor guidance from federal, state and local authorities to determine when it can reopen in California," SeaWorld said.

SeaWorld also reiterated that it has "postponed to 2021 the opening of rides that were still under construction and originally scheduled to open in 2020." This would include Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and IceBreaker at SeaWorld Orlando. Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa and Emperor at SeaWorld San Diego were testing before the parks closed, though both might be considered "under construction" as they were not yet cleared for riders.

For the past quarter, SeaWorld reported just 300,000 visitors at its parks which were open in June, with revenue of $18 million. That's a decline in each case of more than 95 percent over the same period last year. However, SeaWorld noted that "total park attendance at reopened parks has increased 14% on a same-park basis from the week ended June 28 (the first full week these parks were open) to the most recent week ended July 26."

At the end of the second quarter, on June 20, 2020, SeaWorld reported a cash and cash equivalents balance of approximately $376 million, with an average cash burn of about $12 million a month. The company said that it expects a net loss of about $105 million for the quarter.

"The Company believes without self-imposed capacity limitations, attendance versus the prior year would likely have exceeded 50% in some parks on certain days," SeaWorld said in its report.

"The Company believes attendance levels will strengthen as it begins to re-introduce special events, interactive experiences and other in-park offerings which were temporarily suspended. Additionally, the Company has significantly curtailed marketing spend during the initial reopening phase and expects a measured ramp-up in marketing spend will also support further attendance growth.""

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Replies (3)

July 29, 2020 at 2:33 PM

I don't know how BGW thinks they can open when Governor Northam announced new restrictions this week for the Hampton Roads area of the Commonwealth, where COVID cases have been increasing. This statement seems to be highly optimistic given current conditions and the stance taken by the governor to not provide any exemptions to the mass gathering requirements and max capacity restrictions.

July 29, 2020 at 3:19 PM

So the first step in a "phased reopening" is wishful thinking?

July 30, 2020 at 9:19 AM

Well, that "wishful thinking" is actually reality much to my surprise. BGW has just announced that they're taking a queue from Knott's by hosting a Beer and Coasters series in August. I guess they've crunched the numbers, and have found a way to open and operate the park under the 1,000 max limit currently allowable by Virginia. The park will only operate the "right" side of the park (England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and New France) with only the top attractions in those lands running (Loch Ness Monster, Finnegan's Flier, Griffon, and InvadR). Guests will also be limited to visiting during a 4-hour window (weekends will have 2 operating windows where guests visiting during the first window cleared out of the park before the second window opens). This allows the park to operate with reduced staffing to accommodate the severely restricted attendance.

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