SeaWorld is moving forward with plans to pump millions in new attractions at its San Diego theme park.
On December 19, the City of San Diego provided notice that SeaWorld has applied for the necessary permits for a large renovation project that includes removing structures to make room for a new roller coaster, construction of new buildings, a new orca exhibit, and food courts.
The project, classified as a Process Five, will require San Diego's planning commission to review the project as well as final city-council approval before construction begins.
The improvements are a part of SeaWorld's larger efforts to rebrand their theme parks after negative publicity caused by the backlash of the *Blackfish* documentary, which questioned the park's orca exhibits, its treatment of killer whales, and the deaths of orca trainers.
The resulting public relations nightmare from the documentary sent SeaWorld's stock into decline. Revenues for 2016 decreased by a reported $15 million from the previous year. SeaWorld stocks were also down by a reported 34 percent.
Despite the financial straits, in September of this year, the theme park announced its plans to change its image and build new attractions.
“We are extremely excited with the scope and depth of the new attractions and events coming to our SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks in 2017,” said Joel Manby, SeaWorld Entertainment's president and chief executive officer in a statement following the announcement.
“In developing new experiences we want guests to have fun, but also be inspired, and our parks are uniquely suited to create meaningful and fun vacations.”
The application to the city is the first step in the permitting process. Planning commissioners and city councilmembers will vote on the project in the coming months.