Joel Manby has stepped down as CEO of the struggling chain earlier this week. After a massive loss in attendance and revenue since the release of the Blackfish film in 2013, the company has struggled to keep a positive public image and business strategy.
We recently posted an article on the deplorable state of SeaWorld's operations, and it is no surprise that the board is looking to shake things up. Manby joined the company in 2015, after serving as Herschend Family Entertainment's CEO. An industry veteran, Manby was able to help plan growth and development of those major parks over his tenure.
Upon arriving to SeaWorld, Manby cannot be credited fro much success, save for removal of killer whale shows and a few major ride additions such as Mako, a B&M Hyper Coaster. It's quite unfortunate that SeaWorld hasn't taken the hint by now and begun removing marine exhibits wide-scale.
While I do believe that SeaWorld's animals are given some of the best veterinary care from around the world, the perception of abuse looms, especially as a public traded company. It seems pointless to remove animals from a marine based park, but this would only stand for the larger animals, such as orcas and those who need extensive space. Replacing them could be exhibits featuring animatronics ir new rides with a marine theme.
SeaWorld does not have to strip themselves of the wildlife fully, but should definitely seek growth through attraction investment instead, much like they've done for this upcoming season. The interim CEO, John T. Reilly should focus on replenishing the park's revenue, attendance, and budgets, and creating atmospheres more like the Busch Gardens parks.
At this point, only a massive rollback on animals, or a massive transition to full fledged theme parks will probably turn things around. We will see what happens over the coming years...
By now, I'm sure that most people are aware of the financial troubles of SeaWorld parks. Ever since the release of the Blackfish film in 2013, the parks have suffered from decreased attendance, revenue, and profits. A public traded company, stock prices have fell over 50% from its peak a few years ago.
Unfortunately besides the three SeaWorld branded parks, the company also owns the two Busch Gardens parks, as well as Sesame Place in Pa. Once noted as one of the best brands in the industry when it came to overall theming, service, and attractions is now in shambles and at risk of going under.
The subject of animals in captivity is highly subjective, and each person will take their own perspective on how zoos and animal based parks should handle owning live animals. With the world that we live in today, it is not surprising that these attractions are taking a huge hit from the press, even if they have five star veterinarian care and facilities. Especially when it comes to marine animals who need extensive space, parks do not find it hard to get a bad rap from organizations like PETA and other activist groups.
While the Busch Parks are seen in a better light due to less of an involvement with animals, and more of a focus on rides, they are suffering from undeserved treatment due to SeaWorld's financial troubles as a whole. Over the past few seasons, the Busch Parks have had to shutter or close multiple attractions to help alleviate budget cuts.
Popular rides such as Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Curse of Darkastle, and Busch Gardens Tampa's Gwazi have been forced to close due to increased maintenance costs and lower budgets. Gwazi has not been touched in 3 years, and left standing but not operating, with no clues as to what will happen to the structure.
It is bad business to leave rides standing but closed to the public. Guests may see a ride from across the park and head over, only to be disappointed when they find out that the ride is not operating. Malls perform a similar tactic when stores close, and the exterior is boarded up with drywall and advertisements. The empty space of a defunct store is shielded from the public.
It's bad enough that headlining dark rides and roller coasters have been forced to close, but even playgrounds, play structures, and other family attractions have seen a similar fate.
Of course I am focusing on Busch's sake here, as SeaWorld parks have never been branded as theme parks, rather as marine parks focusing more on the animals. Although SeaWorld is removing some of the animal attractions and replacing them with true rides, I still think that unless the animals are removed wide scale, the parks will suffer from a bad image.
It's time for SeaWorld to sell the Busch Parks to a different chain. SeaWorld needs to solidify this new direction that they are taking with the marine parks. The Busch parks have always been profitable and good attendance pullers, so they shouldn't have to suffer from woes that the SeaWorld parks have caused the chain from the increased press.
Whether it could be the rumors of Merlin or Palace being interested in the parks, SeaWorld should entertain selling the more lucrative properties to help out their financial standing. The Busch parks are way too nice to have to suffer from this.