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P. 267: Ice Breaker officially opens on February 18th, 2022!

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SeaWorld CEO stepping aside as company announces layoffs

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-seaworld-ceo-20141211-story.html

 

Jim Atchison is stepping down as chief executive officer of SeaWorld Entertainment.

 

Effective Jan. 15, Chairman David F. D'Alessandro will serve as the Company's interim CEO until the board selects a replacement. Atchison will become vice chairman of the board.

 

A SeaWorld spokesman would not say whether Atchison's decision was voluntary.

 

SeaWorld also announced today a restructuring program across its entire 11-park enterprise "that will result in the loss of some positions." The company would not provide details.

 

The company's stock has declined amid disappointing financial results and bad publicity over its captive killer whales.

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Tough to see Jim Atchison step down (or forced to resign). He is a great person, but I bet he was under a lot of pressure to improve the company stock. With the bullsh*t Blackfish documentary and falling attendance and revenue, I believe shareholders had enough and want more $$$ on returns. Company issues are the low cash flow, debt management and other risk factors. Saving $50 million in costs for 2015 may be a stretch, but some jobs may suffer across the parks (management).

*side note: investors are not going to be happy on his outgoing 'Golden Parachute' $$.

 

I worked for the company a long time (since high school) and miss the days when the Busch family ran the parks. It's sad to see how everything has transpired now and how Blackstone put an IPO for the chain. I understand why they had done it, but many investors felt that the park brand was not going to do well on the stock market (even before the Blackfish documentary).

 

Hopefully brighter days come for the park chain, but I have an uneasy feeling that things may get worse before it turns around. I wonder if this will change any plans for the park(s) in the works over seas.

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What I wrote a few pages back is still my thoughts. They REALLY need to start telling the world about their PARKS again instead of constantly trying to do damage control over Blackfish. Hundreds of tweets about rescuing animals isn't going to get people to visit their parks, IMO. Tell them about the awesome rides, shows, and seasonal events going on at the theme park. Get them excited to come visit. Tell them WHY they should come and have a great time!

 

I don't know about the rest of you, but to me it really seems like the biggest mistake SeaWorld is making lately is how much they are promoting their rescue, care and conservation for their animals and orcas.

 

Look, SeaWorld, we get it...Blackfish was a load of crap and anyone who isn't a pro-peta activist knows this. We realize this was a huge upset and people are making claims that aren't true, and you guys are fully in the right to defend yourself. We support that. But you guys are a THEME PARK and you need to start acting like one again! Instead of constantly tweeting about your new orca habitats coming in 2018 or whenever, how about tweeting about how awesome your Manta roller coaster is? Or how much fun your dolphin show is? Or how cool it is to hang out with your family at your theme parks?

 

If you look at SeaWorld's Twitter feed over the last few months, you would have NO IDEA AT ALL that they were a theme park, and instead you'd think they are some sort of animal conservation group, and that's ALL they are. I feel like SeaWorld has completely lost touch with the fact that they are a theme park and their recent message totally reflects this.

 

Remember "Sea of Surprises?" Yeah, neither do we! This was supposed to be their huge 2014 promotion. When was the last time they promoted it?

 

Look, I love SeaWorld and I 100% stand by them. But they need to remember what they are and get back to those roots. Quickly!

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Backing out of doing the Blue World stuff now wouldn't help. It would just bring that spectre back.

 

If you lose 65% of your stock price and attendance is down everywhere, you need to change leadership. I don't blame them. The rides they've purchased haven't sparked attendance increases or even mitigated the losses and stabilized the parks. SeaWorld sank millions into Antarctica and attendance dropped 5% in 2013. If that isn't damning towards their creative people and upper management, I don't know what is.

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Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who wouldn't put credit for these declines solely on Blackfish. It's always seemed to me like the attractiveness of SeaWorld's parks was well in decline before Blackfish, and SeaWorld was not adequately competing in the marketplace. Blackfish just sort of "happened"... a decline was most likely going to happen anyway.

 

Don't get me wrong, SeaWorld has built some good attractions. The Mantas on both coasts are enjoyable, but they aren't on the eye-popping WOW!!! level with Universal's Harry Potter, or Disneyland's Cars Land, or WDW's New Fantasyland. What else has SeaWorld put up in the last 5-10 years? Blue Horizons? One Ocean? People will always consider those the dolphin and killer whale shows that have always been there. There's almost zero new attractiveness that can be gleamed from those unless they completely re-invent the shows and really come up with some amazing new stuff. Antarctica is fun but the dark ride portion is really underwhelming, and no doubt word of mouth has gotten out on that. What does SeaWorld expect to happen with their attendance when they do this, and the other parks in the market are doing what they've done? A rising tide may lift all boats, but it can't do much for a gradually sinking ship.

 

Robb is absolutely 100% correct when he says that SeaWorld is basically neglecting their theme park identity. These declines are very much a result of THAT mistake. Blackfish's supporters will claim credit in their ignorant and boastful way, and they're wrong of course. It's just as lazy for anyone else to just think it's all Blackfish and has nothing to do with SeaWorld's lack of creating something new and amazing. Antarctica was a good shot, but at best it seems like SeaWorld put all their eggs in that basket and wound up with little more than egg on their face for their troubles.

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Just to change the subject, where is a place where you can get cheap SeaWorld tickets for 12/28? I'll be visiting it then and don't want to pay $60 for a ticket.

 

If you know an employee or a pass holder you can get 50%. (47.50 plust tax)

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I think mis-managing the BlackFish response definitely cost him his job. Not only were they not aggressive from the beginning in defending themselves, like Robb said, they didn't do anything to take the spotlight away from the animal treatment.

 

They should have been marketing and building kick ass rides and then had the Blue Ocean campaign as a footnote to that. "Come for the E-ticket ride...stay to see all the cool things we do to help marine animals!"

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^I think that if that happened, the animal rights activists would have just complained about them not spending on the animal exhibits. Echo chambers, the Streisand effect, and people's desire to be part of a cause made anything Sea World did lose-lose situation, and I think the only thing for Sea World to do is wait until the activists get distracted by a new cause.

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Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who wouldn't put credit for these declines solely on Blackfish. It's always seemed to me like the attractiveness of SeaWorld's parks was well in decline before Blackfish, and SeaWorld was not adequately competing in the marketplace. Blackfish just sort of "happened"... a decline was most likely going to happen anyway.

 

Don't get me wrong, SeaWorld has built some good attractions. The Mantas on both coasts are enjoyable, but they aren't on the eye-popping WOW!!! level with Universal's Harry Potter, or Disneyland's Cars Land, or WDW's New Fantasyland. What else has SeaWorld put up in the last 5-10 years? Blue Horizons? One Ocean? People will always consider those the dolphin and killer whale shows that have always been there. There's almost zero new attractiveness that can be gleamed from those unless they completely re-invent the shows and really come up with some amazing new stuff. Antarctica is fun but the dark ride portion is really underwhelming, and no doubt word of mouth has gotten out on that. What does SeaWorld expect to happen with their attendance when they do this, and the other parks in the market are doing what they've done? A rising tide may lift all boats, but it can't do much for a gradually sinking ship...

 

 

Orlando built Antarctica in 2013. Guess that ride wasn't that memorable to everyone.

 

 

But I would argue that SeaWorld/Busch Parks need to take a page out of Six Flags and add more rides to their parks. Out of their 11 Parks (2 Busch Gardens, 3 SeaWorlds, Sesame Place, 3 Aquatica's, Water Country, Adventure Island) they added 1 Drop Tower, A Few Kids Rides, and a Couple of Slides in 2014.

 

Next year seems like a Coaster and not much else except for new shows.

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I like the idea of the expanded Orca Habitats with viewing areas and a more natural design but more rides are definitely needed.

 

I think they are more victim to a perfect storm of swinging and missing on the Antarctica redo and Universal's growth and Potter Success. There's only so much one can do on a trip to Orlando and right now that's being consumed by Disney and Universal. Say a family is coming in for 5 full days. Disney is going to eat most of that and that leaves a day or two for something else and that something else is Universal right now for the most part for those that only go to Orlando only so often. That's not to mention all the other stuff that eats a day up like LEGOLAND, Waterparks other than Aquatica, Space Center, Shopping, and now the Eye and other proposals. Let's not forget the proliferation of Aquariums across the country and not to mention the leaps and bounds that zoos have done to improve. SeaWorld, outside of the Orcas, has lost it's uniqueness. Glass tunnels under sharks are a dime a dozen these days.

 

What could SeaWorld do? Well, I'd focus a hell of a lot more on San Antonio. Texas is growing and it's just getting insanely huge population wise and lacks anything major outside of a couple of Six Flags. I'd make that park the prime objective, not to mention it's in a friendlier environment when it comes to activism. SeaWorld has missed the boat on having their own value added resorts so far.

 

I love Discovery Cove, I think it's a incredible value when you hit it at the right time. I'm shocked so few of folks I talk to know about it when chatting about visiting Orlando.

 

About those Aquariums, well look at Merlin. They have taken Legos and Sealife and used it as a growth vehicle. I have taken the kids to two of them in Dallas and Kansas City. Now, what if SeaWorld had done this with a SeaWorld branded Aquarium and a Sesame St. Discovery Zone combo in major metros. What if they paired those two with an Aquatica Hotel with indoor waterpark like a Great Wolf? Could you see a SeaWorld Hotel with an indoor bowling alley themed to being under the sea? I can, cause Bass Pro is doing them

vcsPRAsset_2454_120941_40f3cd94-0cba-4f57-962c-e9e6d8d8516e_0.jpg

 

Hindsight is 20/20 but if you could get in Mr. Peabody's and Sherman's Wayback Machine, you wouldn't build Busch Gardens in Tampa and SeaWorld in Orlando now would you. Imagine if Sea World and Busch Gardens were across the street from each other along with Aquatica and Discovery Cove and a couple of park owned themed resorts.

 

SeaWorld can be very successful, they need to find a way to grow the brand and enhance the existing parks' appeal. Not sure how much space Orlando has but it needs more themed rides. It can be done, look at that new park in China with the giant Whale Shark aquarium, now that's something the Downtown Aquarium doesn't have. I fret over the rumor of Comcast buying them as I see the Orcas going bye bye in that case but you might get a Jaws return.

 

If it's bought out, I hope for Chimelong to snag them. I don't think a US chain would do them justice.

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Let me back up - if we're gonna have a serious discussion about SeaWorld's woes, then you have to recognize the issues the parks have by virtue of changing hands twice in the last five years. If they were a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch still, we might not be having this discussion at all because they'd have corporate backing with the cash willing to build the sorts of rides and attractions needed to right the ship. In fact, they may have never even been in this situation to begin with. Don't ignore the obvious - do you guys think the parks with AB owning them would allow Texas Splashdown to rot? Would they have put the handicapped platform over one of the Gwazi stations and left half the coaster to the elements?

 

The truth is that they don't have the money to build what people are suggesting they should build. They are probably borrowing long term to construct the Blue World stuff, which if they don't do, only brings more negativity on the company. Their big capex for this year is, what, a production model Premier coaster for BGW? On top of all that, their CEO (who was a miserable failure, BTW) is getting something like $3-4 million in severance while they cut their show staff. They mismanaged their position. They knew that Diagon Alley was coming like everyone else and responded with TurtleTrek and Antarctica in Orlando. They made questionable decisions about ride purchases (Mach Tower, Falcons Fury) which led to late openings that affected their attendance. They bought a water park from Cedar Fair of suspect value with money they probably should have used for new attractions instead. If Aquatica San Diego was doing crazy business, are they just not telling us and taking Ls instead? That seems like a awful strategy.

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I do agree that that the quick succession from AB to Blackstone to IPO has been horrible timing. A poster mentioned Turtle Trek, I had forgot about that. Shows the impact it had along with new penguin experience. Those were clearly family aimed and it just didn't achieve the goal as new gate draws.

 

We are not far removed from the new Manta at San Diego in terms of a new custom ride, most seem to like it but that park is hampered by restrictions to do much more that requires any height.

 

As for the Busch Gardens, I understand the enthusiasts disappointment of getting a clone of something that was put into a Six Flags park on the West Coast. But...lot's of miles between the two and how many of the folks going thru the gates of both parks are likely ever going to both? I don't mind it as much considering the Virginia park just got the very custom Verbolten. It's a shame the new drop tower at Tampa was plagued with issues it looks like something the GP would eat up.

 

I wonder is SeaWorld Parks has ever considered an AP that got you admission into all the parks than might spur visitation from frequent visitors of just one park to the others? We've seen this with Cedar and Six Flags. In fact, I'm thinking of purchasing a Six Flags pass for our family of four with plans to hit San Antonio, Arlington, St. Louis, and Atlanta one that deal over the course of next year with fuel prices falling.

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I wonder is SeaWorld Parks has ever considered an AP that got you admission into all the parks than might spur visitation from frequent visitors of just one park to the others? We've seen this with Cedar and Six Flags. In fact, I'm thinking of purchasing a Six Flags pass for our family of four with plans to hit San Antonio, Arlington, St. Louis, and Atlanta one that deal over the course of next year with fuel prices falling.

 

They already have a platinum pass that grants you admission to all SeaWorld/Busch Gardens parks. I've had one for a number of years.

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I do agree that that the quick succession from AB to Blackstone to IPO has been horrible timing. A poster mentioned Turtle Trek, I had forgot about that. Shows the impact it had along with new penguin experience. Those were clearly family aimed and it just didn't achieve the goal as new gate draws.

 

Exactly. They built something new opposite Transformers and part of New Fantasyland with Antarctica. It was pretty ambitious. Attendance dropped 5%. That's a flop. No matter how you want to categorize the ride or how you feel it should draw to the target audience, it did not.

 

We are not far removed from the new Manta at San Diego in terms of a new custom ride, most seem to like it but that park is hampered by restrictions to do much more that requires any height.

 

They could build dark rides, water attractions, different sorts of enclosures, and so on. 4.3 million people went through the gates last year. That's a lot of people. The chain just doesn't have cash. They didn't have much in reserve handed to them when spun off from Blackstone and they were saddled with a ton of debt from the money borrowed to buy them from InBev in the first place.

 

As for the Busch Gardens, I understand the enthusiasts disappointment of getting a clone of something that was put into a Six Flags park on the West Coast. But...lot's of miles between the two and how many of the folks going thru the gates of both parks are likely ever going to both?

 

My concern with that purchase isn't that people are going to think about SFWoA. My concern is that it is a lower capacity (even with two trains) attraction being throw into the Festa Italia section with what seems to me to be little concern about how it affects it as a whole or if it can deal with the crowds of people who will head that way. If you want to argue that they know better than me, I'd argue I can't do any worse based on their financial performance. Any of us could have been Kieran Burke or Dan Atchison.

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Went to Sea World today with my boy and had a great time. He loves the Polar Express ride during the Christmas Holiday it never disappoints. The sea of trees was awesome as usual with a nice light display which gives a nice reflection off the water. There was a pretty decent size crowd at the park today with cars filling up the overflow lots. They may have had a bad year with publicity and slightly low attendance, not that I saw much of a low crowd, but this park has not been a let down in all the 25 plus years I have attended it. I support this park 100% and believe this storm will pass and they will bounce back.

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I agree that changing hands twice in the last 5 years has not been good for the parks. They need to figure out and find there way and fast.

 

When they were part of AB they were just a footnote to their much larger parent. They didn't need to be a huge money maker and were a way to advertise the AB brand.

 

Now they are on there own they have to make a profit for their investors. They don't have the deep pockets any more.

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Just read news via Screamscape that Sea World and Busch Gardens are moving ahead with the coming years festivities despite the fallout from the Blackfish crap that caused bands to drop out of the music events. Glad to see they are moving forward and continuing the music festivities and will not announce the bands performing too early. I think this a step in the right direction for the parks as opposed to ending the music festivals because of Blackfish.Kudos to Sea World Parks.

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