SeaWorld Orlando’s 2012 -2013 Redevelopment

Filed under: Orlando Theme Parks,SeaWorld |

News is leaking out that SeaWorld Orlando has quietly launched a “major redevelopment” that will add several new attractions to the marine park in 2012 and 2013. It’s exciting news as the theme park makes moves to ensure it gets its fair share of visitors in the future.

The plans, according to government filings and talking with some of the people familiar with various elements, include transforming the 24-year-old penguin exhibit into a new, possibly Antarctica-themed ride. There’s also talk of adding a sea-turtle movie attraction to an existing manatee display as well as building a rainforest-themed trail in Discovery Cove that would include a freshwater pool and habitats for primates and otters.

“We do have plans for incredible new attractions at SeaWorld Orlando, and we’re committed to finding amazing new ways to immerse our guests and fans in the mysteries of the sea,” SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said. “It’s too early to talk about the plans and details right now, but you can expect us to share the news in the near future.”

In a sign of how ambitious its plans are, a delegation of top SeaWorld Orlando executives met two weeks ago with more than a half-dozen senior Orange County planning and growth-management officials to alert them to the coming work according to local news channels. The SeaWorld contingent included SeaWorld Orlando President Terry Prather and park vice presidents in charge of finance, design and engineering, and lobbying as well as a corporate engineering and creative-development executive.

“They’re going to be doing a major redevelopment. They’re looking at spending a significant amount of money,” said John Smogor, Orange County’s planning administrator.

While SeaWorld won’t reveal its plans yet, some details have trickled out and one of the biggest projects, expected to be completed in 2013, involves Penguin Encounter, a walk-through exhibit that opened in 1987 and displays several different species of penguins, as well as puffins and murres.

SeaWorld employees have been told the exhibit will close in December for an 18-month refurbishment, and one county official said he expects SeaWorld to demolish the building entirely. SeaWorld is currently renovating a back-area avian-research building to make room for the penguins that will be displaced by the construction.

Since August, SeaWorld Orlando has also trademarked a trio of names that could be associated with the project: “Antarctica” and “Empire of the Penguins,” both for use as themed areas in an amusement park, and “SnowWorld,” for use as an amusement-park attraction.

Separately, SeaWorld is also planning to redevelop its Manatee Rescue attraction, a project expected to debut in 2012. According to a person familiar with details, the plans include renovating a circular theater and using it for an upgraded, sea-turtle movie that will likely be tied in with a theatrical documentary that was released this past summer through SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s new SeaWorld Pictures film unit.

Documents filed with the South Florida Water Management District confirm that SeaWorld plans to convert the manatee exhibit into a “combination manatee/sea turtle exhibit.” SeaWorld last month also trademarked the name “Turtlesphere 360” for use in a theme-park attraction.

There are also rumors that SeaWorld is designing a “Space Oyssey”-themed sea lion performance to replace the current “Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island” show.

Discovery Cove, the high-end boutique park next door to SeaWorld, is also a part of the expansion efforts. Documents filed with the water district and Orange County show that SeaWorld intends to convert a now-closed saltwater reef into a freshwater environment alternatively referred to as the “Flooded Rainforest Trail” or “Flooded Forest River Trails.”

Features there, according to the documents, will include a “primate island” and an otter-viewing area. Exciting times and it’s good to see the continued investment into the theme parks in the Orlando area.

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