IAAPA 2016 News in Review – SeaWorld reorganizes creative side; Study: Virtual reality fits parks

SeaWorld Entertainment recently reorganized the creative side of its business.  It now has a division called Deep Blue Creative, which encompasses six aspects of SeaWorld.  The new structure will help SeaWorld create a new vision for itself focusing less on killer whales, more on education and conservation SeaWorld Chief Creative Officer Anthony Esparza told the Orlando Sentinel last week.

For example, he said, the company is using technology to see how it can more prominently feature extinct and endangered creatures, or tell stories from an animal’s point of view.  SeaWorld is aiming “to become a creatively driven company,” said Esparza, who was named to his post in 2015.

About 25 employees are included in the six divisions, which SeaWorld has housed on its corporate office’s first floor. SeaWorld is contracting much of its work out, Esparza noted.

SeaWorld generated $485.3 million in revenue during the third quarter, compared to $496.9 million the previous year. Net income was $65.7 million, or $0.77 per diluted share. That compares with net income of $98.0 million, or $1.14 per share, a year ago. The results missed analysts’ estimates.

The divisions include “Expedition X,” focused on prototype development for innovative projects and new technology. It’s led by Crystal O’Hea, previously a corporate director of marketing and consumer activation at SeaWorld.

A domestic theme-park development group encompasses two teams — project management and guest experiences. The group’s leaders are Mike Denninger, vice president of theme-park development, design and engineering, and Brian Morrow, vice president of theme-park experience.

A global theme-park development group includes international expansion and exploration of new business models. John Linn heads that. SeaWorld is currently planning a new Middle Eastern project, which the company will announce more details on later this year.  Resort development focuses on establishing hotels at the company’s parks. SeaWorld hired Steve Iandolo as vice president of resort development earlier this year.

Events and Entertainment focuses on live shows, culinary and retail environments. This team will explore and develop new event concepts. It’s led by Nancy Hutson, who spent eight years as vice president of entertainment at SeaWorld’s Busch Gardens Tampa. SeaWorld is focusing heavily on special events, and it’s starting a new food and wine festival here in Orlando next year.

Media enterprises leads the company’s film, television, and music business. A team structure is in process.

Study: Virtual reality fits parks

Los Angeles-based Thinkwell Group last week released a report about the trend of virtual reality in theme parks.

Among the findings: 73 percent of respondents described themselves as interested in trying a virtual-reality theme-park experience. Only 69 percent, however, would pay more for it. Almost a third of respondents worried about getting motion sickness from virtual reality, while cleanliness of the headsets concerned 22 percent. Only 16 percent wanted to have a horror-movie-type experience while strapping on their glasses. More than half, on the other hand, craved an adventure theme.

Craig Hanna, Thinkwell’s chief creative officer, said as the industry grapples with issues such as how to move people through rides quickly while handing out headsets, standalone attractions might currently be the best place for virtual reality. Still, many theme parks are trying it out. Following the lead of Six Flags, SeaWorld Orlando will begin using virtual-reality headsets on its Kraken roller coaster next summer.

IDEAS designing VR experience

Speaking of virtual reality, the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee has tapped Orlando-based IDEAS to design a temporary attraction called Future Flight for the game’s 10-day 2017 fan festival.

Future Flight will feature a Mars-themed virtual reality experience with a 90-foot drop.Using actual footage from Mars, the two-minute, 10-second experience will give the illusion of traveling through space. Guests can also choose not to experience the drop. IDEAS is working with NASA on the concept.

Volcano Bay tickets on sale

Universal Orlando began selling multi-day tickets including its new water park Tuesday for between $245 and $295.

A three-day ticket for Volcano Bay along with Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure costs $245 for one park per day. One that allows you to hop between parks on the same day costs $295 — almost $100 a day.

Adding Volcano Bay to Universal’s three-day, two-park ticket adds another $40 to the cost.  The tickets are available for use starting June 1. Volcano Bay will open next year.

 

This article was first published on November 19, 2016.  To view the original article with supporting video, please click here.

To read the Thinkwell 2016 Guest Experience Trend Report, click here.

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