The COVID-19 pandemic means the opening of the next Sesame Place in San Diego has been pushed back a year.
SeaWorld interim CEO Marc Swanson announced on the company’s third quarter earnings call that Aquatica San Diego will get one final operating season in 2021 before being transformed into a new Sesame Street-themed park.
Groundbreaking for the revamped park began in November 2019, but construction was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the original agreement with the Sesame Workshop specified the park had to open 2021, SeaWorld will now have to pay a penalty.
“I think it’s about $2,000 a day,” Swanson said. “I think we are very confident though that we can work with our partners to come to a resolution that makes sense for both of us. Again, it’s a great relationship. More importantly, we’re just excited to get that park open, and I think the delay will allow us to open it hopefully when things are at a better spot in California.”
Aquatica San Diego will not open in 2020 thanks to the pandemic. SeaWorld San Diego is only allowed to operate as a zoo under California’s theme park reopening guidelines.
Attendance is trending upward for SeaWorld Entertainment as a whole, though it’s still well below pre-pandemic levels as the company reported a $79.2 million net income.
The Orlando-based theme park chain reported a $368 million drop in revenue compared to the same period in 2019. However, overall attendance improved from a 89 percent year-over-year decline in July to 61 percent in September. Multiple parks had days where they hit their COVID-19 capacity restrictions in the quarter and into October, according to Swanson, and the company was pleased with attendance at seasonal events.
“Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s annual Howl-O-Scream event was reimagined with open air scare zones and social distancing adjustments,” Swanson said. “This modified event drew approximately 60 percent of the attendance of last year’s event.”
Swanson added that in order for the parks to break even on expenses, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, the company would need to slightly improve attendance to just a 60 percent drop compared to last year’s figures.
The company will get a small boost next quarter with Busch Gardens Williamsburg being allowed to welcome up to 4,000 guests at a time, up from 1,000, for its Christmas Town event.
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