A leaked survey might've just shown us where SeaWorld plans to build its next theme park


Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music
  • Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music
With the company in the midst of what can easily be viewed as an executive purge, it is not surprising that a leaked survey which gives away great details on what is likely SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment’s next big move flew below the radar.

Last May, SeaWorld announced it was extending its long-running agreement with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street. For more nearly four decades the two groups have created theme park experiences, most notable the stand-alone kid-focused Sesame Place park just outside Pittsburg. The park features kid-friendly rides similar to Legoland with a heavier dose of water rides.

As part of the extension of the agreement last year SeaWorld confirmed it was building a new Sesame Street land at SeaWorld Orlando and it would be opening a second Sesame Place park. The new park will open no later than mid-2021 with the land in Orlando opening no later than fall 2022. After the second Sesame Place is opened the company would then have the option to expand the concept across the nation with an unspecific number of Sesame Places.

At the time speculation on where the new Sesame Place ranged from San Diego, where SeaWorld is struggling with its unpopular sea life park to Tampa where SeaWorld has one of its most attended parks, Busch Gardens Tampa.
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A new survey went out late last week that points to another option. The survey asked respondents to look over a 14-page document that give intricate details on a proposed Sesame Place in Williamsburg next to the Busch Gardens park there.

The proposed new park would include six rides, feature live entertainment, and have a small water park area. Using Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s current Sesame Street’s Forest of Fun area the new park wouldn’t require extensive development costs. The new park would also expand out into a current surface parking area near the current front gate of Busch Gardens.

In the plans the Forest of Fun area remains with the same name and many of the same buildings though it would be nearly double the size of the current land. Three other lands fill out the small park, which looks to be 11 or so acres, just shy of the 14 acres of the original Sesame Place in Pennsylvania. Guests would enter through the current ticketing and guest services area near the entrance of Busch Gardens. The Neighborhood area would be home to multiple shops and dining venues. A large V-shaped building looks to be an indoor theater venue where live stage shows will take place.

Another building looks similar to the oddly shaped one headed to SeaWorld Orlando’s Sesame Street land. That building in the plans for Orlando is widely believed to be the home to the new Legacy Entertainment (formerly the Gary Goddard Entertainment) designed dark ride. It’s likely that the same dark ride would be included in the new Williamsburg park.

Next is the Central Park area, a smaller area that looks to be home to a few rides. The final section in the park is Seaside, a water park area with a small wave pool, a water play structure, and three slides. Interestingly, one of the slides that gave respondents an idea of what this area was to be featured an image of a lazy river despite no such attraction on the map featured in the same survey.

The survey also clearly states that the park would feature six rides but roughly a dozen are included in the map provided in the same survey.
Similar to Orlando’s plans the new park would feature a Sesame Street themed parade and for the first time we see images of what that parade might look like. A purple castle float leads the parade with giant eggs, likely for Big Bird, and other highly themed Disney quality floats are seen in the renderings.

The removal of Sesame Street’s Forest of Fun from Busch Gardens Williamsburg won’t be as much of a hit as a similar move at Busch Gardens Tampa since Williamsburg kept its Land of the Dragons kids area when it added the Sesame Street area. In many of the other SeaWorld parks, including Busch Gardens Tampa, the Sesame Street area replaced the former kids areas. At SeaWorld Orlando the new Sesame Street area will replace the current kids area, Shamu’s Happy Harbor.

Back in Williamsburg, one of the biggest questions regarding the possible park is parking. If the renderings in the survey are correct the new mini-park would replace the current Premier and handicap parking areas. This would mean a major decrease in parking at the resort while attracting more guests than ever.

One potential cure would be a new parking structure. This would also keep land available for the long-proposed resort hotel that former CEO Joel Manby mentioned as part of a potential chain of resorts that would include on-site hotels at nearly every SeaWorld theme park.

With the contract setting the hard date of 2021 for the opening of the new park SeaWorld can’t wait much longer to announce the park as it will likely take some time for permit approval and construction. In the meantime, the company is in the midst of a search for a new CEO, new Chief Marketing Officer, and, well, pretty much every other position required to lead a modern company.


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