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New entrance for Sea World San Diego set for 2014
10-11-2012, 02:18 PM
Post: #1
New entrance for Sea World San Diego set for 2014
Fresh from its debut this summer of a new roller coaster, SeaWorld San Diego is now preparing to overhaul the park entrance, transforming it into a themed "undersea" experience.

Buoyed by sharp increases in attendance, the marine park plans to spend tens of millions of dollars on the renovation, which won't be ready until March 2014.

Dubbed Explorer's Reef, the project will encompass more than 3 acres and include four kid-friendly touch pools that will allow visitors to interact with a variety of sea creatures.

"The current entry area where you purchase your tickets and go though the turnstiles was built in 1985, and in the same way we’re constantly refreshing and reinventing the park experience, that’s the approach we’re taking here," said San Diego park president John Reilly.

"The idea is to transform the arrival experience into something our guests have never seen before. You'll have iconic signage, a translucent wave that makes you feel as though you’ve arrived at the beach and are moving into the sea under a wave."

The undertaking is also in keeping with a new trend emerging in theme park entryways as increasing numbers of people buy their tickets online rather than spend time waiting in lines, said theme park consultant Dennis Speigel.

He cited as an example Cedar Point in Ohio, which will debut next year its winged roller coaster, GateKeeper, that will fly directly over the park's main gate.

"After being in business 30, 40 years, the front gates need a refurbishing, so what they’re doing is softening their entries," said Spiegel, president of Cincinnati-based International Theme Park Services. "Disney is talking about doing this also, to make the entry the first impression by bringing the entertainment right to the front door."

SeaWorld officials won't reveal how much Explorer's Reef will cost but said it's on a par with the investment made in the Manta roller coaster. Spiegel estimates the cost in the $20 million range.

Construction is expected to start in December on the new attraction, which will not only include dining and retail outlets, but also four 24,000-gallon touch pools filled with thousands of fish, including 400 brown-banded and white-spotted bamboo sharks.

The design of the entry will break convention with the typical ticket-booth style of theme parks, including SeaWorld's, Reilly explained. He likened the design and feel to a hotel front desk where attendants will be able to help visitors with all their park plans.

"We will not only be providing admission products, but you’ll also be able to make reservations for dolphin interaction programs, Dine with Shamu and other scheduled events," he said. "Those employees will be able to provide any service right there."

Before construction of Explorer’s Reef begins, SeaWorld will construct a temporary gate to the right of the current main entrance to the park. Parking will be unaffected.

SeaWorld's investment in the park comes at a time when attendance has finally been on an upward trend following two years of sharp declines. In 2011, the number of visitors rose 14 percent, and SeaWorld is expecting continued growth, spurred in part by the new Manta coaster.

The park has yet to make any announcement about new additions for 2013, but Reilly said it will be a new show, although he was unable reveal anything more.

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