Park notes: Epcot changes / Busch Gardens Mardi Gras / SeaWorld’s ‘Blackfish’ settlement

Yet another phase of Epcot’s reimagining is about to begin, closing more areas and pathways around Walt Disney World’s second park. 

On Feb. 15, both the Electric Umbrella quick-service restaurant and the Pin Central shop will close, according to Another closure will follow after Feb. 17, the last day of operation for Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. The interactive experience will be replaced at an unspecified date by the DuckTales World Showcase Adventure, as Orlando Rising had previously reported. 

Soon, guests will be rerouted around the center of Future World. 

With Electric Umbrella and the remaining portion of Innoventions West going behind construction walls, traffic will now go through two bypass walkways on either side of Spaceship Earth — one of which goes by the under-construction Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. 

Mardi Gras Weekend coming to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Universal Orlando isn’t the only Central Florida theme park sporting a New Orleans vibe this month.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will host its first-ever Mardi Gras Weekend on Feb. 22 and 23. The event will feature some special live entertainment and music, including New Orleans street performers, as well as a Mardi Gras menu items like a shrimp po’ boy sandwich, jambalaya, and beignets. 

The event runs from 12 to 7 p.m. and is included with park admission. 

SeaWorld pays $65 million to settle investor lawsuit over ‘Blackfish’

On Feb. 11, SeaWorld Orlando’s parent company agreed to pay $65 million to settle a long-running lawsuit alleging the company misled investors on the impact of the documentary “Blackfish.”

SeaWorld Entertainment will not admit to any fault in the settlement, $45.5 million of which will come from insurance proceeds. 

Filed back in 2014, the lawsuit claimed that SeaWorld Entertainment executives made “false and misleading” statements about the financial damage caused by “Blackfish,” a film which criticized the theme park chain’s treatment of its captive killer whales. The company initially stated attendance declines following the film’s release were due to weather and an early Easter holiday.

SeaWorld’s fortunes didn’t begin to rebound until the first quarter of 2018. It then enjoyed six straight quarters of attendance and revenue growth, a streak that ended with the third quarter of 2019. 

The company and its former CEO James Atchison, had agreed to a $5 million settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in September 2018 on similar allegations of misleading investors. The U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed SeaWorld over the accusations but did not file any charges.

Orlando hotel market expected to be ‘firing on all cylinders’ in 2020
5 biggest new theme park attractions coming to Central Florida in 2020
Theme park data: How often has Universal’s Hagrid ride been closed?