SeaWorld has been losing visitors by the droves, but it isn’t giving up on trying to lure them back with flashy new rides and shows.
The beleaguered theme park company announced a huge slate of new rollercoasters, rides and animal “encounters” to be added to locations nationwide next year. All told, the additions will cost about $175 million, according to a press release.
It might take more than fancy new rollercoasters for Sea World to get back in the good graces of travelers after the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” sparked a global backlash by detailing the alleged mistreatment of captive orca whales.
Each of SeaWorld’s new attractions is carefully designed to promote SeaWorld as a place for education, a continuation of the radical about-face the company made when it finally announced the end of its controversial orca breeding program in March. In San Antonio, visitors will learn about animal rescue missions while they wait in line for a new rollercoaster. In San Diego, a new submarine ride will teach visitors “how they can help protect animals.”
Then there are the orcas. According to the press release, San Diego’s new Orca Encounters will be less “theatrical” than the controversial orca shows of yore, in which the so-called killer whales performed tricks for a seated audience. Instead, these new live presentations will teach visitors about orca behavior in the wild.
SeaWorld’s former Shamu Show “was like Cirque du Soleil with whales,” SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby told USA Today. “Now we are transitioning to an educational encounter.”
And that’s a good thing, because a new law will soon make it illegal for orcas perform for entertainment in the state of California.
SeaWorld attendance has been on the overall decline since “Blackfish” debuted. And while the parks promised to stop breeding orcas, critics are concerned that dolphin and beluga breeding continues.
We’ll see if a rollercoaster can keep visitors coming.