A Swim in the Park
SeaWorld's newest theme park will combine beach swimming and marine life.
Although SeaWorld's newest water park in Orlando isn't slated to open until early 2007, parent company Busch Entertainment Corp. is already carefully carving out its marketing strategy.
After three years of planning, the company released an artist's rendering this summer that shows children and adults sliding through acrylic tubes into a sparkling blue pool while dolphins frolic nearby. But these aren't just any dolphins. They're rare black and white Commerson's imported from South America, and they look a lot like miniature versions of SeaWorld's mascot, Shamu.
"Certainly having people make that mental association is not a bad idea," says Jim Atchison, executive vice president and general manager of SeaWorld Orlando. The parks will be marketed as a package with multiday and multipark tickets, although an admission price for the new property hasn't been announced.
The still-unnamed water park is designed to accommodate larger crowds and have wider appeal than SeaWorld's other sister park, Discovery Cove, which opened five years ago. Discovery Cove, where visitors swim with dolphins and share other up-close experiences with wildlife, caps attendance at 1,000 people a day and caters to active adults and older children. The water park, on the other hand, will be more like SeaWorld in drawing all ages, Atchison says."It'll be just a very immersive, refreshing, energetic experience," says SeaWorld Orlando general manager Jim Atchison.
Positioned at the opposite end of International Drive from Wet 'n Wild and just a short drive from Walt Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon, the water park will have some of the same features competing parks have, such as a wave pool and sandy beaches. But the addition of marine life will make it distinctly different, Atchison says. It'll be marketed as a place where travelers can visit the beach without driving to the coast or worrying about shark attacks.
"It is a water park, but it's really so much more," Atchison says. "Guests will whisk through actual animal habitats in acrylic flumes that will go through the exhibits. It'll be just a very immersive, refreshing, energetic experience -- one where you'll get to meet a lot of animals and get up close to them in different ways that you can't do in any other place."
SeaWorld's Water Park Plans
Expected opening date: Early 2007
Proposed site: 58 acres along International Drive near SeaWorld
Size of SeaWorld: About 200 acres
Size of Discovery Cove: About 37 acres
Expected new jobs: 1,000
Current workforce at SeaWorld and Discovery Cove: About 5,000First the company has to clear some hurdles, including concerns of nearby residents who don't want extra traffic. SeaWorld and Discovery Cove already count about 5,000 employees, and the water park is expected to add about 1,000 positions. It will rely heavily on SeaWorld's expertise to care for the animals.
Announcement of the new park comes on the heels of last year's major expansion at SeaWorld, which added a waterfront shopping and dining area along with a nighttime show called Mistify. This year the park added Blue Horizons, a show featuring dolphins, birds, acrobats and a Broadway flair.
"We're going to keep being aggressive," Atchison says.