Dear Coaster Friends,
Six Flags and Cedar Fair have fully announced their 2020 plans, but SeaWorld has been slowly wetting out appetites with drips of information. Three of their five parks have signaled that next week they will be presenting more information. All five of the parks have shared some info, so we know that they are all building roller coasters. We know that some are aimed to be record holders of their type or region. We know some names, we know partial layouts. However this campaign of releases of information in bits has been building towards the simple revelation that SeaWorld parks, the smallest of the big chains, is gearing up for an epic year. Next week SeaWorld Orlando will tell us about their 2020 project, so far only a teaser with no images of the ride was released. Busch Gardens Tampa will also be sharing the day with hopefully a name and more layout revealed. Most recently SeaWorld San Diego announced they will also be sharing the day to share more info on their unnamed wooden coaster. Could the remaining two parks hop into the mix for a chain wide reveal?
While 2020 will obviously be the year to visit your Busch Gardens and SeaWorld parks I wanted to look further into their future. The parks have committed to ending their Orca breeding program so basically in about 20-30 years it is safe to say they will be losing those animal shows and exhibits that helped define their brand. It is also plausible that in the future other animal exhibits could be phased out as well. The general public is less enthusiastic about these types of attractions in theme parks and eventually like it or not they will become a thing of the past. Ultimately I think they will hit a tipping point where the resources needed to properly care for these animals and the space they take up inside the park will become a loss compared to thrill rides. While SeaWorld in their public statements push against this idea, everything we see them do on the business side of things points towards a future of investing in thrill attractions. So at what point will it become silly to have Shamu as the company mascot or even the SeaWorld name over the gate?
I think the best strategy for the brand is to pivot the three SeaWorld branded parks to Busch Gardens. From this point forward I'd like for you to think of me as Neptune proposing a dramatic shift for these three parks. That way they could retain some of their animals and as areas become vacant they can be replaced with rides. My suggestion is to change SeaWorld Orlando into Busch Gardens Southern Oceans. The focus on this year-round hotspot could be staying cool. The continent could be Antarctica, but the park could also feature rocky islands, icebergs and other natural looks instead of the typical architecture of specific regions. This would leave room for the penguins and other sea life to stick around. SeaWorld San Antonio could become Busch Gardens Australia. They could lean on their climate and create a collection of land animals like kangaroos, while retaining sea life in a Great Barrier Reef themed area. Finally I would theme SeaWorld San Diego to Busch Gardens Asia. This park gets the most local resistance for animal exhibits and the San Diego Zoo is considered to be at the top of their field. This park could focus on regional architecture to give different areas a distinct feel. However since the sea is an important part of life in many Asian cultures it could still accommodate sea life exhibits.
All of these changes, no matter what cosmetic overlay I suggested, the focus moves away from the animal exhibits and shows. The focus moves towards cultures and natural uniqueness. This is why the two Busch Gardens parks have escaped the same level of public scrutiny that plagued the three SeaWorld parks. They are theme parks full of thrilling attractions that have animals, while SeaWorld was viewed as profit driven aquariums with rides. You may say I am erasing the soul or identity of the brand, but I am not. I am trying to hide it in plain sight while preserving and enhancing what I like about theme parks, the rides. I know my proposal is drastic and many will not like this suggestion, and to you I say don’t worry. I am not in charge of SeaWorld nor am I qualified for such a position, however these tough choices will be in the company’s future. As in nature you need to evolve to survive, so embrace the change or go extinct.