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Can SeaWorld Be Saved (cont.)?

November 24, 2014

A strong argument in the Orlando Sentinel, from Scott Maxwell, that SeaWorld in fact can’t be saved, unless it comes to grips with the fact that its killer whale shows can no longer be its primary attraction.

Money graphs:

SeaWorld’s problem is that its biggest asset and biggest liability are the same thing — whales.

It needs to evolve and expand.

See, one of the main reasons that Disney and Universal continue to thrive is that they continue to evolve.

Ten years ago, Universal was all about superheroes and roller coasters. Today, it is Harry Potter and high-tech simulators.

Disney has grown and adapted as well. It started with fairy tales and an iconic castle. But Disney then reached out to older adults with Epcot, movie lovers with MGM Studios and animal lovers with Animal Kingdom.

Today — four decades after Disney’s first Orlando park opened — Disney is preparing to cash in on the worldwide phenomenon of a movie that didn’t even exist until last year: “Frozen.”

Meanwhile, SeaWorld’s main theme and attraction is the same as it was when the park opened 41 years ago: killer whales.

And the park is doubling down on that. It’s biggest spending plans involve hundreds of millions of dollars to expand and improve the whale habitats.

Other than that, the park has second-tier additions on the horizons — like a revamped Clyde and Seamore sea lion show, which the company described last week as “a hilarious tale, filled with amazing animal behaviors and splashy audience fun.”

Think about that. Universal has a new Harry Potter attraction that’s garnering worldwide attention. SeaWorld has a paid blogger, a bigger whale pool and a revamped sea lion show.

If Disney needs more than Mickey, SeaWorld has to understand that it needs more than Shamu.

Read the whole thing, and see who you think makes more sense: Atchison in Businessweek? Or Maxwell?

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