SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. plans to invest $175 million in new shows and attractions nationwide in 2017, including its new Orca Encounter at SeaWorld San Diego. Officials said the investment will be among the biggest one-year capital-spending tallies in the theme park operator’s five-decade history.
A statement from the Orlando, Fla.-headquartered company said the Mission Bay park will be the first of its three SeaWorld locations to debut a new education-oriented orca attraction, replacing its killer whale theatrical performance shows that were recently discontinued.
Debuting in summer 2017, the local whale encounter will feature “live documentaries” presented via projection technologies, focusing on “orca enrichment, exercise and overall health,” and examining broader themes such as research, rescue and conservation. The new program will be brought to the company’s Orlando and San Antonio parks by 2019.
Also in San Diego, in summer 2017, SeaWorld will unveil its previously announced Ocean Explorer, a new three-acre space combining multiple aquariums, rides and digital technologies, with a focus on exploration and adventure.
Officials said SeaWorld parks in San Diego and Orlando will also see a summer 2017 debut of Electric Ocean, a new end-of-day “spectacle event” featuring after-dark lighting, music and pathway entertainment.
Several of the upcoming changes stem from controversy generated by a 2013 documentary called "Blackfish," which raised issues related to the treatment of captive killer whales. SeaWorld Entertainment is aiming to reverse recent declines in revenue and attendance.
SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE: SEAS) operates 12 theme parks nationwide under brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica. In addition to SeaWorld San Diego, its local properties include the Aquatica waterpark in Chula Vista.