SeaWorld is in a lot of trouble. It’s financial results came out late last week, and the news wasn’t good. Attendance at all three SeaWorld parks was down, the company’s annual earnings estimate was adjusted lower, and the stock price plunged following the news. However, SeaWorld's CEO helped mitigate some of the bad news by announcing that the company would be unveiling “a new direction” for the company Monday.
Interestingly, this new direction was quite comprehensive, and included new rides at all the SeaWorld parks, a refocused mission and a look towards a future that could include on-property hotels (similar to those at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, etc.) But first up is the revelation that made headlines around the country...
1. The current Shamu show is done (at SeaWorld San Diego at least)
The part of the conference that made the biggest waves early Monday morning (pun intended) was the revelation that SeaWorld was phasing out its Shamu show, at least at San Diego. However, there are a few caveats to this revelation. First off, the park won’t be ending its current Shamu show , One Ocean, until sometime next year. Then in 2017, SeaWorld: San Diego will be introducing a new "experience" that will focus on education and natural behaviors, rather than songs and flips.
Like with any decision made by a major theme park group, there’s a bit to unpack here. First off, it seems curious that SeaWorld would make a public show of canceling a Shamu show (seemingly to placate those disturbed by films like Blackfish), just to announce that their current whale show would be replaced by something else (albeit less "showy") the following year.
And while it may initially seem curious that SeaWorld would choose to make this move at SeaWorld San Diego rather than at its flagship park in Orlando, taking some current events into account makes the rationale behind this decision a little bit more clear.
Last year, SeaWorld announced its ambitious Blue World project, which aimed to vastly increase the size of the whale habitat at SeaWorld San Diego. And though the road to this project has been long, government officials finally approved construction permits to bring Blue World to life last month with one big caveat: if SeaWorld went ahead with the project, they would not be allowed to procure any more whales, either via purchase, trade, or breeding. Essentially, SeaWorld was told that either they could build Blue World and keep the whales they have, or they could abandon the project and continue growing their whale population.
Though SeaWorld never said officially that it was abandoning the Blue World project, it did mention during the presentation that funds from Blue World would be used to fund its new whale show. It would seem illogical to use funds from a current project to fund something else if it were still going forward, so we're left to assume that Blue Ocean is not moving forward.
Of course, if this new "experience" (whatever it is) is wildly successful in San Diego, we’d expect it to be exported to SeaWorld’s other parks (including SeaWorld Orlando), but considering we are several years away from this new entertainment offering’s debut, it seems premature to make any predictions about what may happen at other parks several years from now.