As SeaWorld’s summer 2021 season nears its peak, the SeaWorld Orlando park has received a national honor. During USA Today’s recent 10Best Readers’ Choice Competition, readers voted SeaWorld Orlando the “Best Amusement Park in the Country.”
This notable award was the latest highlight in a memorable year for Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. After emerging from its pandemic challenges as a well-positioned company, SeaWorld recently announced growth plans that included its transformation into a multi-day destination.
Seaworld Orlando Earns Two USA Today Readers’ Choice Awards
SeaWorld Orlando is the recipient of two USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. The park’s designation as the “Best Amusement Park in the Country’‘ reflects the facility’s optimum mix of attractions, rides, and special events.
The Orlando-based park’s Mako hyper-coaster also won a Readers’ Choice award. The Mako roller coaster, known for its 73mph speeds and deep dives, won the “Best Roller Coaster in the Country” award. Finally, SeaWorld’s Aquatica Orlando was rated the “Best Outdoor Water Park” for its water attractions that appeal to all ages.
The USA Today Readers’ Choice nominees are selected by USA Today editors and a group of experts. Readers determine the Top 10 rankings by popular vote. The 2021 10Best Readers’ Choice Competition marked the first time that SeaWorld Orlando has garnered both the “Best Amusement Park” and “Best Roller Coaster” awards.
New Leadership Positions SeaWorld for Continued Growth
Focused on expanding guest experiences at SeaWorld, the company is laying the groundwork for multi-year expansion plans. SeaWorld CEO Marc Swanson has been the driving force behind these ambitious efforts. Swanson, who was appointed as CEO after serving as Interim CEO since April 2020, has a 20-year SeaWorld career that includes several executive oversight positions.
Marc Swanson emphasizes that Scott Ross, Founder and Managing Partner of Hill Path Capital and SeaWorld’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, has been supportive of Swanson’s emphasis on growth. In fact, CEO Swanson frequently collaborates with SeaWorld Chairman Scott Ross, the Board of Directors, and the Management Team on key aspects of SeaWorld’s expansion plan.
SeaWorld Will Transform into a Multi-day Destination
Families across the country frequently visit SeaWorld’s 12 parks on day trips. However, Marc Swanson has expressed a desire to transform several parks into multi-day destinations. The construction of onsite and/or nearby hotels is key to realizing this goal. The company has not yet finalized its plans, and several parks are under consideration.
Attractions, Rides, and Special Events
Consistently adding new attractions and rides provides SeaWorld’s parks with an updated appeal. To illustrate, SeaWorld Orlando will welcome the IceBreaker launch coaster later in 2021. Marc Swanson states that adding new thrill rides, along with other attractions, is a top priority.
“We’re going to continue to have new rides and attractions. Our goal is to have something new in every park every year — and that would certainly include the parks in Florida,” Swanson noted. “We have some things that we can’t obviously announce right now, but I think people will be excited when they see the future plans for not only our Florida parks, but really our parks all across the country.”
SeaWorld’s parks also feature varied seasonal special events. Several parks have hosted food festivals during the spring and summer months, and themed Halloween events are planned for the fall 2021 season.
Successful Pandemic Navigation Paves the Way for Growth
SeaWorld’s improved financial and operational infrastructure has resulted from the company’s successful management of its COVID-19 Pandemic challenges. Faced with a nationwide three-month park shutdown while expenses continued, SeaWorld’s then-Interim CEO Marc Swanson knew that swift, decisive action was needed.
Swanson began ongoing collaborations with Board Chairman Scott Ross, the Board of Directors, and the Management Team. Swanson recognized Scott Ross’ leadership as a key factor in SeaWorld’s effective pandemic response. “We were all in this together, and having our leadership and Board in constant communication certainly allowed us to address this crisis head on,” noted Swanson.
Where possible, the SeaWorld Executive Team decreased operational costs and increased the company’s financial leeway. They also reduced or postponed capital expenditures by putting a hold on projected rides and attractions.
In retrospect, CEO Marc Swanson recognizes that SeaWorld’s well-coordinated pandemic response helped the company to substantially improve its financial and operational position. “What we did over the ensuing days, weeks, and months between the shutdown, shoring up our balance sheet and liquidity and the gradual re-openings of our parks, not only allowed us to get through what could have been a devastating stretch, but prepared us to actually emerge a much stronger company.”