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SeaWorld Orlando killer whales

The CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has revealed that attendance at the chain's theme parks increased by 5.3 percent during 2011.

Jim Atchison confirmed the improvement in performance to the Orlando Sentinel, claiming that total visitors numbers hit 23.6 million. The attendance figure, which covers SeaWorld and Busch Gardens-branded parks, marks the first annual improvement since 2008.

While SeaWorld Orlando was among the company's best-performing properties, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has still opted to pursue a major overhaul of several areas of the park. The plans include the addition of a major new dark ride dubbed Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin in 2013.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is no longer obliged to report attendance figures, having been taken over by private-equity firm The Blackstone Group in 2009. However, it has made several statements about its performance since announcing the opening of a new water park, Aquatica Texas, in May 2011.

For the full interview with Atchison, read the Orlando Sentinel's report.

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