Over the last five years, SeaWorld has struggled with an image problem largely related to the perceived treatment of orcas in captivity. Yesterday, SeaWorld San Diego announced plans to build a multi-million dollar exploratory aquarium.
SeaWorld’s ride beneath the seven seas
The three-minute ride, to be called the Ocean Explorer, will take visitors on a trip through multiple aquariums while the ride simulates a miniature submarine that will put visitors in close contact with giant octopi, jellyfish and hundreds of other species of sea life.
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“I’m extremely excited about Ocean Explorer and I know our guests, of all ages, are going to love this fun, interactive and educational new area of the park,” said John Reilly, SeaWorld San Diego president. “The opportunity to see and learn about some of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures, coupled with a mix of distinctive rides and activities, will give our visitors a meaningful experience only SeaWorld can create,” he said.
The Ocean Explorer is expected to open sometime in the Spring of 2017. The ride is essentially replacing the company’s plan to double the volume of the the park’s killer whale tanks that would have cost the theme park around $100 million. While that plan hasn’t been scrapped completely, it has been put on hold indefinitely.
“Blackfish” and SeaWorld backlash
Following the release of the documentary “Blackfish” in 2013, which saw the film attack the company for its treatment of its orcas that draw most of its visitors to the park, SeaWorld has had dismal sales. The park has staunchly defended itself as well as repeatedly saying that “Blackfish” was an inaccurate look at the park’s practices. Following the release of the documentary, SeaWorld launched a $10 million marketing campaign highlighting the park’s benefits to sea life including the orca. Additionally, the company ponied up an extra $10 million beyond its annual budget to conserve orcas in the wild.
“Our guests’ response to new attractions has always been tremendously positive,” said Reilly. “The scope of Ocean Explorer demonstrates our ongoing commitment to creating new and fresh attractions, exhibits and events that provide the exciting, educational and entertaining experiences SeaWorld is known for.”
Whether it draws more visitors to the park is the big gamble.