|| A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. ||

Sea World

SeaWorld is a United States chain of marine mammal parks, oceanariums, and animal theme parks owned by SeaWorld Entertainment. The parks feature orca, sea lion, and dolphin shows and zoological displays featuring various other marine animals. There are operations in Orlando, Florida; San Diego, California; San Antonio, Texas; and previously Aurora, Ohio. On March 5, 2007, SeaWorld Orlando announced addition of the Aquatica water park to its adventure park family, which already includes SeaWorld and Discovery Cove. SeaWorld parks also feature a variety of thrill rides, including roller coasters like Kraken and Manta at SeaWorld Orlando and Steel Eel and The Great White at SeaWorld San Antonio. Journey to Atlantis, a combination roller coaster and splashdown ride, can be found at all three US parks. The parks were owned by Busch Entertainment Corp., the family entertainment division of Anheuser-Busch, which is best known for brewing beer. In November 2009, Busch Entertainment was sold to the Blackstone Group and subsequently renamed SeaWorld Entertainment. On April 19, 2013 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment had an initial public offering of stock. Blackstone sold 19.9 million SeaWorld shares at $27 apiece in the offering. After accounting for underwriting fees, Blackstone saw proceeds of about $505 million. After the IPO Blackstone retained a 63% stake in SeaWorld. In 2003 SeaWorld created the non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. SeaWorld is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

History

SeaWorld was opened in 1964 by Milton C. Shedd, Ken Norris, David Demott, and George Millay. The four graduates of UCLA originally set out to build an underwater restaurant and marine life show. When the underwater restaurant concept was deemed unfeasible, they scrapped those plans and decided to build a park instead, and SeaWorld San Diego was opened on March 21, 1964. With only a few dolphins, sea lions, 6 attractions and 22 acres (89,000 m2), the park proved to be a success and more than 400,000 guests visited in the first 12 months. After considering other locations in the midwest, including the Lake Milton/Newton Falls area west of Youngstown, Ohio, it was decided that Aurora, Ohio would be the new home of a SeaWorld. The Aurora site was approximately 15 miles (24 km) northwest of the Lake Milton site, and 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Cleveland. By this time the founders of the company had captured a few more species of animals, including a killer whale that was brought to the new facility. The harsh winter climate permitted the park to be open only from mid-May until mid-September. The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida opened near the end of the second operating season of SeaWorld of Ohio. The success of Disney in Orlando provided a location that was already popular with tourists. SeaWorld Orlando opened in 1973. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. (HBJ) purchased the company in 1976 and 12 years later they began a venture in Texas. In 1988, SeaWorld San Antonio opened just a few miles outside of San Antonio.Growth has pushed the city outwards, and now SeaWorld San Antonio lies in the Westover Hills community in West San Antonio. The park was open year-round like its sister parks in California and Florida in 1988 and 1989, then went to a seasonal schedule. The stress and financial resources it took to build and maintain a state-of-the-art marine mammal facility in the late '80s eventually took its toll on the company. HBJ, whose primary focus was producing school books, needed to reduce its assets in order to avoid a bankruptcy. The Anheuser-Busch Company made an offer to purchase the SeaWorld parks. However, HBJ also owned and operated two other parks, Cypress Gardens and Boardwalk and Baseball, and out of fear of not being able to find a buyer for the two other parks, HBJ refused to sell the parks individually. Despite a long negotiation, Anheuser-Busch bought all six parks in 1989: SeaWorld in San Diego, Aurora, Orlando and San Antonio as well as Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven and Boardwalk and Baseball in Haines City. Soon after the sale was final, Busch sold Cypress Gardens to the park's management and closed Boardwalk and Baseball. Anheuser-Busch put millions of dollars back into the parks to revive and to prolong their longevity. On August 15, 2014, SeaWorld announced the Blue World Project; a major renovation to all three of the SeaWorld parks Killer Whale habitats. The project will begin with SeaWorld San Diego in 2015 and is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2018 with a cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The company has also pledged $10 million in matching funds for killer whale research.