The parent of SeaWorld San Diego has announced a partnership with locally based Evans Hotels Group to “explore development” of a resort hotel on SeaWorld’s leased land at Mission Bay.
The potential development was among several changes announced Nov. 9 by SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. during its first-ever Investor and Analyst Day, as the Florida-based company seeks to move beyond its reliance on controversial performing-whale shows. SeaWorld is looking to put more focus on family entertainment and its programs geared toward veterinary care, conservation and animal rescue.
SeaWorld Entertainment officials said earlier in the day that the company plans to phase out its signature “Shamu” killer whale performance show at SeaWorld San Diego, replacing it in 2017 with a new orca exhibition emphasizing the park’s conservation efforts.
CEO Joel Manby said SeaWorld Entertainment has signed a letter of intent with Evans Hotels Group of San Diego, as the park operator explores similar development opportunities in or near some of its parks nationwide. Financial and other details of the pact with Evans were not disclosed.
“This project is an exciting opportunity for our iconic brands to join together to create the ultimate resort experience,” said Evans Hotels President and CEO Robert H. Gleason, in a statement issued by SeaWorld Entertainment.
Evans Hotels Group owns and operates several San Diego County resorts and attractions, including The Lodge at Torrey Pines, Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa in Pacific Beach and Bahia Resort Hotel at Mission Bay. It also owns the Bahia Belle and William D. Evans sternwheelers, 19th-Century-style paddleboats that are used for special events at the Bahia property.
Manby said SeaWorld has also entered into a multi-year partnership with Panasonic Enterprises Solution Co., which will work with SeaWorld to add technologies that “enhance the guest experience” and better connect visitors with employees and featured animals at its 11 U.S. parks.
The company also unveiled concepts for upcoming new attractions and seasonal events, including a SeaWorld rescue-themed roller coaster, and shows and experiences featuring characters from the Christmas story “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” No timetables or locations were provided for development of the new coaster.
The initiatives follow controversy stemming from a 2013 documentary called “Blackfish,” detailing issues related to the company’s handling of captive orcas. The documentary spurred protests by animal rights groups and recent moves by California and federal government officials aimed at curtailing captive whale breeding and performance shows.