SeaWorld San Diego will start its 50th anniversary celebration Friday, with the opening of Explorer’s Reef, which will become the new visitors entrance.

An opening ceremony will be hosted by ABC’s “Good Morning America” correspondent Cameron Mathison and feature Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, incoming Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the park’s president, John Reilly.

Explorer’s Reef is set to be unveiled at the end of the ceremony. Visitors will enter the park beneath a sculpture of a wave crashing into a reef. Four freshwater and saltwater pools will include sharks, rays, and fish that visitors can reach in and touch.

The celebration comes amid controversy over keeping orcas in captivity, which has been heightened by the documentary “Blackfish.”

A Democratic assemblyman in Santa Monica has introduced a bill to ban shows involving killer whales. Assemblyman Richard Bloom said the legislation was inspired by “Blackfish.”

Tuesday, the City Council proclaimed March to be SeaWorld San Diego month in honor of the theme park, which opened on March 21, 1964.

Since then, more than 156 million visitors have passed through SeaWorld gates in San Diego. The mayor said the theme park has employed 93,000 San Diegans over the years, conducted research on marine life and generated significant tax revenues for the city.

– City News Service

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