SeaWorld Orlando plans to reopen to the general public on June 11 under a plan it submitted to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force Wednesday.
The public opening of all three of SeaWorld’s Orlando parks — SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and Aquatica — will be preceded by an employee preview night on June 10. Its plans include plenty of new safeguards designed to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including requiring guests over the age of 2 and all employees to wear face masks.
“I think people recognize we live in a different time today,” SeaWorld interim CEO Marc Swanson said when asked about concerns that guests won’t follow the mask requirements. “We’re anxious to provide a really safe product and we’re optimistic that people will follow the procedures, but we’ll have plenty of signage and plenty of reminders.”
Guests will also have to undergo a temperature screening before entering the park.
Physical distancing will be enforced by markings around the parks, encouraging guests to use cashless payments like Apple Pay and installing plexiglass barriers in areas where guests and employees make close contact. On rides, empty seats will be left between parties to space out guests.
The need for distancing will require some experiences to be suspended. Open play areas will be closed, while components of SeaWorld’s Sesame Street parade that involve interacting with guests will be modified or removed entirely.
Swanson said the park will also step up its sanitation efforts, including a significant increase of the number of hand sanitizer stations.
Unique to SeaWorld’s situation, the plan included new policies on animal exhibits and interactions. Tours will only operate if physical distancing can be allowed, Swanson said, while certain tours will be limited to one party at a time.
SeaWorld Orlando has been closed since mid-March thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lacking the financial resources of the much larger parent companies that own the likes of Disney World and Universal Orlando, SeaWorld furloughed more than 90 percent of its workforce, with some part-time employees having not been paid since the parks closed.
While SeaWorld executives did see their salaries cut, the company did grant them $6.8 million in stock awards.
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