ORLANDO, Fla. — SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment on Thursday announced the opening of 10 new attractions at its parks this year, including a new killer whale show at SeaWorlds in three cities, a cheetah-themed coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and a swim-through artificial reef at Discovery Cove in Orlando.
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The new whale show, "One Ocean," has an educational, environmental theme, with a focus on teaching the public about orcas. It will be offered at SeaWorld Orlando at the end of April, SeaWorld San Diego in May and SeaWorld San Antonio in June.
"These types of attractions can connect people to animals, nature and the environment, and can provide the inspiration to want to care about the world," Julie Scardina, SeaWorld's top animal trainer, said in a phone interview.
Discovery Cove, a separate theme park in Orlando which offers interactions with dolphins and other aquatic animals, will open The Grand Reef in June, with hammocks and sandy beaches. Visitors will be able to swim and snorkel amid marine life similar to what you might find in a real coral reef.
SeaWorld San Diego will open Turtle Reef this summer, with a ride and massive aquarium featuring sea turtles, tropical fish and an underwater viewing gallery.
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Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will debut Cheetah Hunt, a coaster with 4,429 feet of track and three zero-to-60 mph launches in one ride. A new viewing area, Cheetah Run, will offer a close-up look at real cheetahs, including a chance to see them run in a daily workout session.
Other new attractions at parks owned by the SeaWorld company include Sesame Street Bay of Play at SeaWorld Antonio; Mach Tower, a rotate-and-drop ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia; Vanish Point, a water tower ride at the Water Country USA water park in Williamsburg; and a Neighborhood Street Party parade and Elmo's Cloud Chaser ride at Sesame Place in Pennsylvania.
Scardina said the 10 new attractions represent the largest capital investment in a single year in the company's history.
SeaWorld is also about to restart its popular "Dine with Shamu" killer whale show. It will begin Feb. 26 at SeaWorld San Antonio and later this spring at parks in Orlando and San Diego. The performance includes a buffet meal for guests while trainers work nearby with one of the park's orcas.
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The show was suspended last year after trainer Dawn Brancheau was dragged into the water and killed by a six-ton orca named Tilikum shortly after a "Dine with Shamu" session.
Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, a global consulting agency, said the new attractions "will take the edge" off the trainer death incident, but he added that he didn't think the death had much of an impact on SeaWorld attendance overall.
SeaWorld does not release visitation figures, but Speigel said the extraordinary popularity of Universal's new Harry Potter attraction in Orlando siphoned potential guests away from SeaWorld, while the weak economy has also dampened theme park attendance in general.
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