2nd Sesame Street Place park opening in San Diego

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) – There are plenty of sunny days to sweep the clouds away where SeaWorld is opening its next theme park.

Officials with SeaWorld Entertainment and Sesame Workshop announced yesterday that they are opening the country’s second Sesame Place park in San Diego in the United States (US) in spring 2021. The first Sesame Place theme park opened almost 40 years ago outside Philadelphia.

The announcement continues a pivot by Orlando-based SeaWorld away from live animal shows.

The new 17-acre Sesame Place will be an adjacent park next to Sea World San Diego. The space is currently occupied by the water park, Aquatica San Diego, which will have its final season next year.

Yesterday’s announcement is part of an expanding partnership between SeaWorld and Sesame Street, which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. SeaWorld’s Orlando park opened a Sesame Street section earlier this year. Officials wouldn’t disclose the cost of the park.

The Sesame Street Big Bird balloon sways in the wind during the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia. PHOTO: AP

President of Media and Education and Chief Operating Officer of Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind Sesame Street, Steve Youngwood said the two brands have common objectives. “We want to engage and educate families. We mutually respect each side’s expertise and we collaborate together to make it work,” Youngwood said.

SeaWorld announced the end of its breeding programme in March 2016, after years of pressure from animal rights advocates and shifting public opinion about orcas being held in captivity. The protests intensified after the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which focussed on the life of Tilikum, a killer whale responsible for killing a trainer when he dragged her into a pool in front of shocked visitors in 2010.

The company in the past year, though, has seen a reversal of fortune. Attendance was up 8.6 per cent during the 2018 fiscal year, as was revenue. For the first half of this year, attendance was up 1.7 per cent. In the past year, SeaWorld also has been offering specialised services at its parks for visitors with autism, and Sesame Place San Diego will also offer those services.

The San Diego park will be slightly larger than the Sesame Street park outside Philadelphia. Construction will start in Aquatica’s offseason and resume after Aquatica closes for the season next year.

The park’s opening in San Diego will open the Sesame Street experience to the western US, as well as to visitors from south of the border, said Marilyn Hannes, president of SeaWorld San Diego.

“I think we will pull a more international audience,” Hannes said.

Back to those sunny days sweeping the clouds away, per Sesame Street’s theme song, it is sunny in San Diego more than two-thirds of the time, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.