Friday, August 15, 2014

SeaWorld Announces Massive Blue World Project

SeaWorld announced this morning that they are about to undertake a massive project to upgrade their Orca habitats in all of their US parks. It was rumored that a big announcement was coming, but this is something else all together.

The project, which their calling the "Blue World Project, will feature the complete redesign of the killer whale habitats. Starting with their San Diego park, construction will begin in 2015.

These new habitats will effectively double the size of the current ones in use. The expansion means they will hold nearly 10million gallons of water, go to a depth of 50ft from the current 36ft and even include the long discussed "water treadmill" system to allow for a more natural ocean current. The surface area will be almost 1.5 acres and with a length of over 350ft, that's bigger than a football field here folks. In addition to the expansion, which is said to cost in the hundreds of millions range, SeaWorld is also pouring an additional $10 million into research.

“Through up-close and personal encounters, the new environment will transform how visitors experience killer whales,” said Atchison. “Our guests will be able to walk alongside the whales as if they were at the shore, watch them interact at the depths found in the ocean, or a birds-eye view from above.”

Curios where it's going? Well the image to the left shows off the area that the expansion will take up and it looks like quite a few changes will be coming due to it as well.

From the looks of the concept art, viewing areas and other spaces for guests and trainers to interact with the Orcas will be greatly improved as well. Some areas are said to be 40ft tall and promise to give guests a glimpse into the habitat like never before.

Just how massive will these new habitats be? Well, it's a little hard to visualize but thanks to the folks at Attractions Magazine, who were on hand for the announcement, here's a an idea of just how tall the new tanks and areas will be.

Via @Attractions on Twitter
The image to the left, taken at SeaWorld Orlando, shows a close to life size representation on the side of Shamu Stadium. If you look closely, you can see a blue flag at the top there. That represents the maximum height of the new enclosures.

Yep, that's right, pretty much as tall as the stadium itself.

While it will be a little while until the construction starts in Orlando, at least we can get an idea of the massive scale of the new tanks and accompanying areas here. We were just in San Diego earlier this year to visit SeaWorld and from the sounds of it, this new project is going to dwarf anything that's currently in the park. From the sounds of it, this may actually fully emcompass their Shamu stadium as well. Though, I'm doubtful that will completely go by the wayside. We'll have to see.

This project answers the desire that many of us here at ISI have had for a long time now, and definitely puts the question of "Why don't they build bigger environments?" to rest. This is a huge upgrade that has been needed for quite a while and I'm personally very happy to see SeaWorld has finally figured out how to do it. While not as extreme as some of the ideas we've had (can we say massive Orca lazy river?), it's definitely great to see them continuing to be proactive and innovative in habitat design.

The new expansion will also provide marine biologists a new and unique glimpse into the habits and behaviors of the Orcas as well. According to the press release; "Innovative features focused on husbandry and animal care will offer SeaWorld’s animal health professionals and independent scientists unique access to the whales that can lead to a better understanding and care of the animals both in the parks and in the wild."

Again, construction on the new habitats will begin with SeaWorld San Diego next year and it is scheduled to open in 2018. Shortly after that SeaWorld San Antonio and SeaWorld Orlando will be getting their upgrades as well.

For more information check out the official project website here and for more information on the additional upgrades coming to Sea World San Antonio, click here!

As always, we here at ISI support SeaWorld and are extremely happy of the announcement today and look forward to experiencing the new habitats in the future. Stay tuned for more updates as they happen and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and Facebook for all the news out of SeaWorld and everyone else that's building in 2015 and beyond!

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