SeaWorld Orlando has been having a rough few years, but many are hoping that 2016 will be the year where it all turns around. With a record-breaking new roller coaster set to debut this summer and new dark rides and expansion plans in the works, things may finally be looking up for this park. However, this week SeaWorld Orlando has quietly made some behind the scenes changes this week that most guests at this park probably haven't noticed. However, these unnoticed changes actually have some big implications for the park going forward, especially as SeaWorld looks to start a new chapter...
1. Removal of deep water lifting floors
Back in 2012, SeaWorld parks in Orlando as well as in San Diego and San Antonio installed special prototype deep-water lifting floors that could elevate both a trainer and a whale out of the water in seconds if an emergency arose during a performance. These lifting floors were also used for additional safety during in-water desensitization training in the deeper pools.
However, in the years since these floors were installed, trainers have been barred from performing with the whales and in-water desensitization training has been been moved to the shallower medical pool. Because of these changes, the deep-water pool lifting floors are no longer be needed, and SeaWorld Orlando has decided that it would be prudent to uninstall and remove these floors as a result. In fact, work has already begun on removing these floors at SeaWorld Orlando during the off season refurbishment of Shamu Stadium.
Though this may not seem like a big deal at first, the removal of these lifting floors reaffirms the park’s decision not to appeal the 2014 court decision that barred the park from allowing trainers into the water with killer whales during shows. While some were hoping that SeaWorld might try to get the courts to reverse this decision in a few years, it looks like the decision has been made to stop fighting and permanently keep the trainers out of the water.
However, looking beyond what this means for the future of the current Shamu show, the removal of these lifting floors also casts more doubt on the fruition of the Blue World project in Orlando. This project has been stalled in San Diego and CEO Joel Manby didn’t say much about the project during 2015’s unveiling of the park’s “new direction”. Could this newest development could signal that this project is completely dead in Orlando as well?
Blue World hasn’t officially been cancelled yet, but if SeaWorld Orlando was truly intending to replace its biggest tank at its flagship Orlando park, it seems unlikely that they would bother refurbishing it at all, instead waiting to remove the lifting floors when the larger work on replacing the entire tank began.
With work on removal of these lifting floors moving ahead, we can't help but feel like Blue World has probably been shelved indefinitely, and SeaWorld is just waiting for guests to either forget about it, or is waiting for the right time to quietly confirm this news. Either way, it looks like Blue World is probably history, which might not be a bad thing considering SeaWorld is investing a lot of money in other projects right now, and investors are looking for quick returns on projects like Mako and the as-yet unnamed dark ride experience coming to the park in 2017.