Its Rich History
SeaWorld, which opened in 1964, was the brainchild of Ken Norris, Dave Demotte, Milton Shedd, and George Millay. The four were UCLA graduates who were inspired by Marineland of the Pacific, the largest oceanarium in the world during that time. First, they thought about building an underwater restaurant, which would feature a marine show, but they decided it was not feasible.
SeaWorld started with dolphin and sea lion exhibits and it was such a coincidence that the movie Flipper was released that same year. The new oceanarium became a hit because of the people’s positive reaction to the movie. The four owners thought it is wise to reinvest their earnings into SeaWorld and the theme park kept expanding. Before they even knew it, Marineland was beaten by the new oceanarium when it came to annual attendance.
In 1965, a killer whale was captured in Washington and brought to SeaWorld. It was named Shamu, only the third killer whale caught deliberately. It died eleven years later but because the whale was the star of the theme park, all the orcas in SeaWorld parks across America have been called Shamu ever since. Then SeaWorld and all its parks were bought from the original owners by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, a textbook publisher. HBJ kept expanding the park, adding Penguin Encounter, Shamu Stadium and Shark Encounter.
Then HBJ bought Marineland, SeaWorld’s inspiration and consequently its greatest competitor, and closed it. He then brought most of the marine animals over to SeaWorld San Diego. Unfortunately, 1989 was not a good year for Jovanovich. Crippled by large debts, he sold the theme parks to Anheuser Busch that same year. The latter is an experienced theme park operator, Busch Gardens being one of its famous parks. Busch continued to develop SeaWorld with the addition of Wild Arctic in 1997. Shipwreck Rapids was added in 1999 and Journey to Atlantis in 2004. The dolphin shows, killer whale shows and sea lion shows were also updated every other year.
When Anheuser-Bush was bought out by InBev in 2008, and sold SeaWorld to The Blackstone Group the following year. The Manta roller coaster was introduced in 2012. Through its extensive experience in the industry, SeaWorld was able to develop captive marine mammal care and breeding practices, which have become a standard. Animal care employees of SeaWorld have always lead or helped rescue, care for, rehabilitate injured marine mammals and other animals, and also assisted in reintroducing them to the wild.