SeaWorld San Diego has a big year next year, with the opening of their new orca encounter and a brand new themed realm for kids called Ocean Explorer. Recently, the California Coastal Commission posted their agenda for their August 2016 meeting, and Ocean Explorer is on the agenda. We’re here with a first look at the permit application for you.

If you don’t know what Ocean Explorer is, you can check it out here.

All major building projects at SeaWorld San Diego have to be approved by the California Coastal Commission (CCC). The project’s permit will be debated on August 11, 2016 in Santa Cruz, California. The permit application, posted just recently, gives us new details on what the realm will look like. Consider this a spoiler alert – if you want to see the area for the first time when you enter it in person, you should avoid this post.

If you’d like, you can take a look at the permit application here.

The official jargon is that SeaWorld is looking to “Construct a new 2.5-acre “Ocean Explorer” attraction area within the existing SeaWorld San Diego amusement park, consisting of 700 sq. ft. and 1,650 sq. ft. aquarium buildings, a 750-ft. long rail ride with 1,440 sq. ft. passenger loading building, a 30-ft. tall swing ride, two smaller children’s rides, four new support buildings, and remodel of existing adjacent buildings”. Let’s take a look at the details.

One important part of this permit application and CCC staff report is that the CCC recommends approval of the permit. This does include special conditions, however. These conditions include submitting building, landscaping, drainage, and construction plans to the CCC before the permit is issued, as well as notifying the CCC when annual attendance to the park reaches 4 million visitors so that plans can be made to improve traffic flow.

The application had the following to say about expected impacts on attendance and traffic:

The construction of the new Ocean Explorer attraction area is not expected to substantially increase the attendance levels, as the area will be aimed at the youngest age group that visits the park and will not introduce any significantly-sized rides such as the past Manta rollercoaster or Journey to Atlantis splashdown ride, which appeal more broadly to all age groups. Still, it should be noted that there will be more attraction options for visitors to experience, and expanded, modernized, or redeveloped facilities do tend to generate an interest on the part of the public to view the new facilities. While some visitors – such as season pass holders – may make annual or semi-annual visits to the existing theme park regardless, it can be reasonably assumed that some visitors will also make a special trip to view the new facilities in and of themselves….Thus, no significant impacts to traffic or parking are anticipated as a result of the proposed project, and traffic monitoring by SeaWorld will continue to report any impacts to nearby public access roads.

This is interesting – typically, theme parks build new attractions in an attempt to bring more people to the park. This paragraph seems to support an interesting theory we have regarding this expansion, which we’ll post about soon.

The most exciting thing about the staff report (unless, perhaps, you’re in the construction field and understand the jargon) are the new images we get to see of the project. Here we see a couple of overviews:

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PGAV Destinations will be working on the project. This company has worked on many projects for SeaWorld, including Explorer’s Reef, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, and Discovery Cove. That alone should be enough to get you excited about this project.

Here’s a look at more new concept art for you.

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Here’s an overview of the new realm. Any ideas what “future partners” could mean?


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The “portal” to the new realm.


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To see the rest of the new art, you can read the staff report here.

What do you think? Are you excited to see Ocean Explorer come to life over the next several months?


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