SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration sculpture. Photo credit: Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego officials may have something up their sleeve to increase attendance and change the perceptions of potential visitors possibly influenced by animal rights activists and the documentary “Blackfish,” it was reported Friday.

On Monday, SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby will detail a new attraction designed to ramp up attendance numbers dragging on the park’s financial performance, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Although SeaWorld Entertainment’s third quarter earnings reflected a modest increase, they fell short of Wall Street analysts’ expectations.

Manby’s plan may include using some of the $100 million the park intended to use to expand its killer whale tanks. Park officials also plan to continue its campaign to stand up to attacks from those who criticize its treatment of orcas in captivity, which so far, has cost about $15 million, according to the Union-Tribune.

The local park took a hit after the controversial documentary “Blackfish” was released two years ago. But Manby said the rate of decline has slowed.

Ohio-based theme park consultant Dennis Speigel said SeaWorld was stabilizing as it worked to “stop the bleeding” and shift the attention away from its orcas, according to the Union-Tribune.

“The whales have always been the titular part of their marketing and in the future they will revise their product approach from sea life to other attractions like theaters, rides and other technological advancements we’re seeing in our industry now,” Speigel said.

SeaWorld Entertainment also plans to challenge the California Coastal Commission’s ruling last month that would end the breeding of captive killer whales at its San Diego theme park. SeaWorld officials had previously agreed not to increase its orca population except through occasional captive births or rescues authorized by government agencies.

The commission’s order was a condition to its approval of a permit to allow SeaWorld San Diego to expand its orca tanks. Not being able to breed its orcas would eventually result in the end of the park’s “Shamu” killer whale shows.

“We have learned a ton about our reputation spend(ing) and its effectiveness,” Manby said. “When we get the facts out, it’s very impactful and it does make people more inclined to support us, visit us and their overall view of us definitely improves

—City News Service