Photo courtesy Sea World
Super Grover’s Box Car Derby roller coaster.

Photo courtesy Sea World Super Grover’s Box Car Derby roller coaster.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) is getting closer to opening its newest theme park under the colorful umbrella of its family of entertainment sites across the U.S.

Sesame Place, a theme park based on Sesame Street characters from the beloved show that debuted in on public television in 1969, will open in March in eastern Chula Vista, just 23 miles away from SeaWorld San Diego.


The venue on Entertainment Circle, next door to the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater, was built on the site of Aquatica, previously known as Soak City and White Water Canyon.


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Clint Brinker Corporate Project Manager SeaWorld Entertainment

Popular with water ride thrill seekers in the past, the park will have a decidedly different vibe now, says Clint Brinker, the Orlando-based corporate project manager for Sea World Entertainment.


“This will look and feel like an entirely new park,” Brinker said. “While it is a transformation of an existing property that many locals have enjoyed for years, we have increased tremendously the offerings that are available in this park, and with that, many rides and themed experiences.”

 
The 17-acre park offers seven Sesame Street-themed rides, 11 water attractions, including a 500,000-gallon wave pool, shows, a Sesame Street neighborhood and an interactive musical play area.


The Sesame Street parade, an ongoing feature at the “Sesame Street Bay of Play” area at SeaWorld, will move to Sesame Place, with favorite characters like Elmo, Big Bird and Grover popping up and doing meet-and-greets at both sites.


Modeled after Sesame Place in PA


The site is modeled after SeaWorld Entertainment’s Sesame Place outside of Philadelphia, which opened in 1980.

 
The Southern California park was originally designed in 2017, SeaWorld officials said. Construction in Chula Vista started in late 2019, shut down because of COVID-19 concerns in March 2020, and resumed in January 2021.

 
While there were some delays because of the limited availability of some materials, and some “off the shelf” items from overseas have been hard to get because of shipment related to the pandemic, Brinker said the company has had good fortune and no major holdups since the 2021 restart build.


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Jim Lake President SeaWorld San Diego

Former Disneyland East General Manager Jim Lake took over as president at SeaWorld San Diego last November as Sesame Place construction was starting to wrap up.


Lake said that after he left the Disney family after 30 years – starting as a ride operator when he was in his 20s – one of the most meaningful reasons he put on another theme park hat was because of the opening of the new venue.


“We have a great opportunity to provide an amazing experience, not only for our guests who are going to love this, but for the communities of San Diego and Chula Vista, providing great jobs and a great economic driver as well,” he said.


Brinker, based out of Florida, but in Southern California the past three years as part of the construction of Sesame Place, has seen up close the growth and development around the park.


Big Homebuilding Push in Eastern Chula Vista


Thousands of new homes have recently been built in Chula Vista and hundreds more are under construction in the region off Interstate 805 in Chula Vista.


“I’ve watched a lot of things as they were new and being built up and around this park,” Brinker said. “It is an interesting entertainment area (with) the Live National theater adjacent to the park. All this housing they’re building, which is visible from the park… these homes are beautiful and I would imagine align perfectly with our demographic. I imagine the families wanting to come visit this place that’s practically in their back yard. So it’s an exciting time to be here.”


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James O’Callaghan CEO South County Economic Development Council

The South Bay community is an ideal fit for Sesame Place in myriad ways, says James O’Callaghan, president and CEO of the South County Economic Development Council.


“We are excited to see an iconic brand such as Sesame Street join the Chula Vista and South County family,” O’Callaghan said. “South County has long been a land of opportunity and Sesame Place will help in continuing to highlight the amazing offerings here and on the horizon.”


O’Callaghan said that he envisions nearly 1,000 jobs brought to the region in direct employment. He said Sesame Place will also lift the area’s hotel occupancy, as well as visits to local restaurants and other surrounding businesses.


“Placemaking is a valuable tool in building a local economy and Sesame Place along with other developments such as the Bayfront Project shine a light on the amazing offerings here in South County,” he said.

 
Lake said he grew up watching Sesame Street, that he recently caught a more modern version of the show on cable TV, and that he once coached his son’s soccer team – nicknamed the Cookie Monsters – that had the iconic chocolate-chip cookie loving character on their uniforms.


He said he already has a favorite ride – Super Grover’s Box Car Derby roller coaster – with its colorful motif and high-energy feel.

 
New Park For Big Kids, Too


He said Sesame Place may be geared toward the younger crowd, but that he expects adults to feel the nostalgic pull just as strongly. “Being a parent, I feel like my kids have the same connection to Sesame Street that I had growing up,” Lake said.

 
“It’s going to be meaningful to kids and adults in the same way but from a different lens. That’s one of the things that I think is really great about Sesame Place. It transcends across all generations.”


SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has been Sesame Workshop’s exclusive theme park partner since 1980.  Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit education organization behind Sesame Street.


Local builders who contracted with Sesame Place in San Diego include Hensel Phelps Construction out of La Jolla and Signtech of San Diego. SeaWorld also contracted out builds of rides with companies out of Canada, Germany, Italy and Austria.


SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
FOUNDED: 1964
CEO: Marc Swanson
CCO: Chris Finazzo
HEADQUARTERS: Orlando, Fla.
BUSINESS: Theme parks, accredited zoos and aquariums
REVENUE: $521.2 million (Q3 2021)
EMPLOYEES: More than 10,000
WEBSITE: 
https://seaworldentertainment.com/
NOTABLE: At 500,000 gallons, Sesame Place will have one of the largest wave pools in the United States.