SeaWorld’s New Park Model Set to Open Next Year

September 14, 2022, 7:25 AM · Construction of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is 90% complete and the new theme park is set to open next year, officials with developer Miral announced today.

The facility will include the UAE’s first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return center, and that is scheduled to open by the end of this year, Miral said.

As for the park itself, the 183,000 square meter facility will be almost entirely indoors, keeping with the other two theme parks in the Yas Island complex: Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and the Theme Park Insider Award-winning Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will include two roller coasters - an Intamin multi-launch coaster and a Zamperla family coaster - in addition to a 360-degree immersive “One Ocean” exhibit that links six distinct marine environments throughout the park.

Current construction progress on SeaWorld Abu Dhabi. Photo courtesy Miral

“We are proud to mark this significant milestone in the development of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, in partnership with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, leveraging its legacy of marine animal rescue and rehabilitation,” Mohammed Abdalla Al Zaabi, Chief Executive Officer, Miral, said. “This is an important and transformational addition to Yas Island’s immersive experiences, which is yet another testament to achieving our vision for the island, positioning it as a top global destination.”

SeaWorld Abu Dhabi‘s aquarium will hold 58 million liters of water and be home to more than 150 species of marine animals, including sharks, schools of fish, manta rays, sea turtles, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates in addition to hundreds of birds including penguins, puffins, murres, flamingos and more. But no orcas, as SeaWorld moves away from its old signature attraction toward a new model for its parks.

“It is a privilege to partner with Abu Dhabi’s leading creator of experiences, Miral, as we bring to life another extraordinary SeaWorld experience for guests with our first marine-life theme park in over 30 years and our first outside the USA,” Marc Swanson, CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, said.

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Replies (24)

September 14, 2022 at 12:47 PM

It sounds like this park will put the "sea" back in Sea World, something the US parks have been drifting away from in recent years in their drive to match other theme parks by upping their attraction counts through adding lightly themed thrill rides. When Sea World was at the height of its powers, they were balancing animals and thrill rides, creating a unique mix of attractions and animal habitats. Rides like Manta (on both coasts), SWO's Journey to Atlantis, and Antarctica (despite its shortcomings) are what separated Sea World parks from a run-of-the-mill aquarium or regional iron park. Sea World created a niche that could compete alongside the powerhouses of the industry, yet instead of staying in their lane, Sea World lost what made their parks unique and able to hold their own in an uber-competitive market.

Hopefully success from this park halfway around the world will show the chain that being different, yet still top class, is what will allow them to recapture their position alongside the leaders of the industry.

September 14, 2022 at 10:26 AM

What can make SeaWorld uniquely effective moving forward is a bunch of attractions you don't need to wait in line for. That can be elevated zoological attractions, yes, but it can also be a mixture of what Legoland has been so good at over the past 20 years and ... the stuff SeaWorld seemed to be sinking its teeth into before deciding it could have a go at building bigger, faster, better roller coasters than anyone else in Orlando.

Curious to see if this is an anomaly (probably) or the start of a new trend.

September 14, 2022 at 3:06 PM

Happy to hear they won't feature orcas, but I seem to recall that a primary reason Sea World is moving toward foreign lands is because they lack meaningful animal welfare laws. No pesky animal rights folks demanding humane treatment in the UAE!

September 14, 2022 at 11:18 AM

The reasons might be cynical and surrounding money, but my hunch is “avoiding animal rights activists” is pretty low on the pecking order.

September 14, 2022 at 11:38 PM

It has nothing to do with animal welfare laws, the reason they are building this place is because its free money for them via licensing fee and a cut of the revenue (and possibly management fee though i'm not sure about that).

September 14, 2022 at 12:06 PM

This is a place I want to hit up sometime in the future. I'm a big fan of the Sea World parks, although I do hope they stop focusing so much on lightly themed coasters and more on accessible family experiences.

Back to Abu Dhabi the park looks like a fun outing. My point of concern with this though is, do they have expansion in mind? I hope they do and don't make the mistake of not having room to grow (looking at you Universal Studios Singapore). I would like to see more of these models of theme parks around the world.

September 14, 2022 at 12:42 PM

I agree with Russell & Jacob, SeaWorld needs to refocus itself on what initially made it different in the first place. Their branding has something those other companies don't have. Hoping they lean back into that.

September 14, 2022 at 2:04 PM

I know you would like to think that, Colonel, but Sea World parks being able to expand their reach while shelling out relatively little money is the obvious reason.

September 14, 2022 at 3:01 PM

Hmmm, I hear a lot of certainty about what's "obvious" without a lot of factual support, whereas I seem to recall Sea World specifically citing greater "regulatory freedom" or something to that effect when they announced they would be headed to the middle east. Let's google, shall we?

Hmm, this came up pretty quickly: "There are also concerns that SeaWorld selected the UAE to get away from increasing scrutiny over animal welfare in the U.S., as the UAE is known to be comparatively lax and is an infamous hub in the exotic animal trade."


September 14, 2022 at 3:18 PM

Speculation thecolonel...Show me a statement from a company official that corroborates those claims instead of editorializing from a media outlet with a known axe to grind (and owned by clickbait masters Vox Media).

Explain to me why in the world Sea World would establish a marine research, rescue, rehabilitation, and return center in the UAE if their goal was to skirt animal welfare laws.

September 14, 2022 at 3:21 PM

here's the (then) seaworld CEO hinting at what became the exact basis for this project nearly a decade ago, when seaworld made its stock market debut:

"Though building new theme parks requires capital, Mr. Atchison suggested that such projects could be undertaken in partnership with big investors, such as a sovereign wealth fund, which might add hotels or other structures to the development.

"'If you look at these development opportunities, they’re often in connection with other real estate plays,' he explained. 'A lot of the development opportunities we have are actually capital-light.'"

in other words: the tokyo disney model ... except with a country instead of a large company.

the source you cited ( — since you didn't actually link to it) is essentially speculating that seaworld is opening a park in a less regulated country because of illegal exotic animal trade.

while I'm not really sure how that would benefit seaworld in this exact scenario, does anyone else want to take a stab at another locale with an illegal exotic animal trade problem?

right. florida.

September 14, 2022 at 11:29 PM

"Explain to me why in the world Sea World would establish a marine research, rescue, rehabilitation, and return center in the UAE if their goal was to skirt animal welfare laws."

You might read up on the history of Sea World's purported "rescue and rehabilitation programs." Like any smart corporation, they tend use rosy, self-aggrandizing names, even if those names are brazenly false (see, e.g., "clean coal"). And to be fair, there are no "animal welfare laws" in the UAE that need to be "skirted," that's exactly my point.

But hey, maybe you guys are right. Maybe a Company with a long history of gross animal abuses went to a country that is notorious for its illegal exotic animal trade and complete lack of animal welfare laws without ever considering the issue. I'm sure you're right.

September 14, 2022 at 10:34 PM

At least SeaWorld is not catering to China.

September 14, 2022 at 10:53 PM

are you suggesting seaworld is opening a park in Abu Dhabi specifically because it saw an opportunity to be more cruel to animals? like, that’s the primary reason?

September 14, 2022 at 11:31 PM

"Primary" reason? Who knows. A reason? Of course.

"More" cruel to animals? Doubt that, they'd be hard pressed to be more cruel to animals. But did they see an opportunity to continue being the _same amount_ cruel to animals as they have traditionally been, except in a place where they wouldn't be called on it? I'm sure they did.

To Keith's point, in 2017 Sea World announced that China would come after the UAE. Why there? More easy investment money, like UAE? Non-existent animal rights laws, like the UAE? Hard to tell, yeah?

But you'd be willfully naïve to think that Sea World is building in these places without considering how they can profit from the lack of animal welfare laws. Especially given all the economic harm they've suffered from having their animal abuses publicized in the US--Blackfish almost torpedoed the Company. Indeed, that's effectively what's driving them out of the US, so _of course_ they're considering the issue in deciding where next to build next.

Grown men insist notorious animal abuse Company didn't consider lack of animal rights laws in considering where to build next, film at 11.

September 14, 2022 at 11:18 PM

Have you ever heard of the dunning kruger effect?

September 14, 2022 at 11:33 PM

"Have you ever heard of the dunning kruger effect?"

Is that your mom's name?

September 14, 2022 at 11:56 PM

Anything SeaWorld touches is tainted by their awful animal abuse and lies. Can't believe people still go to their parks, they've long been on the wrong side of history.

September 15, 2022 at 1:01 AM

I don’t really get the attraction of visiting a 100 plus degree destination for an indoor theme park. But then again I didn’t get Orlando either and that works.

On to more important things

Animal welfare

I would like to speak on behalf of all mice. They are sorely mistreated in Dr Mengele like labs. This has to ??. Research for an extended human modern life is not an excuse. Boycott all drugs and procedures coming from this and any use of mouse likeness in entertainment.

Next week - Banning of Pet Ownership

The Queen and Betty White left their pets well taken care of after passing, however what about the millions of other pets that get orphaned by too many older folks that can’t afford their after care? This has to stop and no more “Secrete Life of Pets” movies glamorizing it either.

Thank you

September 15, 2022 at 9:11 AM

Animal rigth issues?? I would be as equally concerned about human rigth issues in UE. Sea World and similar venues are far better than a lot of regional zoos. We humans have to make up a lot to animals rigths, but this are steps in the rigth dirección. Not perfect by any measure, but better. UE track in human rigths is dubious at best, but here are USA companies cashing in, its the china situación with Disney and universal all over again.

September 15, 2022 at 9:51 AM

"You might read up on the history of Sea World's purported "rescue and rehabilitation programs.""

You mean the programs that have saved more manatees than any other entity (public or private) since the species became endangered?

Sea World's hands are certainly not completely clean in terms of animal care, but you can say the same for dozens of other highly reputable zoos and aquariums (National Aquarium, Columbus Zoo, National Zoo - funded directly by the Federal Government, etc...) who also exist to educate and improve conditions for animals in captivity while finding ways to release rescued species back into their natural environments. At least Sea World has a rescue program. Other companies that incorporate animal exhibits into their theme parks have no such efforts or programs beyond the profiting from animals in captivity.

Also thecolonel, you seem to have missed how this park will be operated. Sea World is merely licensing their name and offering support to Miral in the park's operation. Obviously Sea World would not want their reputation impugned by haphazard management and inappropriate treatment of animals, but if Miral is found to be mistreating animals, that would be on them, and should not be an indictment of Sea World's practices at parks they are operating.

September 15, 2022 at 8:19 PM

I would love to know what all the anti-animal captivity activists have done to help our finny friends.

September 16, 2022 at 8:24 AM

On September 12, Colonel said in another thread: "Mind your manners. You can disagree with an idea without being rude." be followed by several sarcastic comments on September 14 that ultimately was ended with a "your mom" joke.

Be better, Colonel, be better (or at the very least, not a hypocrite).

September 17, 2022 at 2:34 PM

So the new sea world is an off brand sea life centre... which are themselves off brand sea world....

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