Sea World is hoping new ride will make big splash

January 05, 1992|By Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sea World of Florida will use the latest in theme-park technology in 1992 to open a ride that will take guests on a simulated journey through the ocean's depths.

The multimillion-dollar ride will use a flight simulator -- like that used to train pilots -- to rock guests as they view a film exploring the seas.

The simulator, now under construction, will be the first ride ever installed at Sea World -- an attraction better known for its killer whales, sharks, dolphins and eels.

"The attraction takes guests on a scientific investigation of one of the sea's most famous secrets," said Deborah Robison, a spokeswoman for the marine park.

Park industry consultants believe the new ride will make Sea World a more aggressive competitor against Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida, which already have simulators.

"Simulators provide a series of sensations and experiences you can't readily accomplish any other way," said Bran Ferren, chief executive officer at Associates & Ferren Inc., an entertainment design firm in East Hampton, N.Y.

"The guests enjoy them because it is a unique experience."

Ms. Robison would provide few details of the new ride, saying only that "guests will explore the mysteries of the sea and confront the unknown firsthand."

Whether that means sidling up to a giant squid or eyeballing an eight-legged octopus will be revealed later this month, when the ride is described in greater detail at a media conference.

The ride is one of several new exhibits and restaurants planned at Sea World. "Nineteen ninety-two will be our biggest expansion year in the park's history," Ms. Robison said.

She would not say when the ride would open or reveal its price, but the cost of simulators at other parks has ranged from several million dollars to $40 million.

Simulators are the theme-park ride of the 1990s and have eclipsed roller coasters in popularity, consultants said.

The rides have proven moneymakers in Central Florida. Back to the Future, Universal's white-knuckle simulator ride, is the park's most popular attraction. Also popular are Star Tours, the simulator at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park; and Body Wars at Epcot Center.

"There are some wonderful things Sea World could do with the simulator to create [the illusion] of movement under water," said Nick Winslow, an industry consultant with Harrison Price Co. in Torrance, Calif.

"They could make the ride exciting, or just very, very beautiful. . . . My guess is they will maintain the integrity of their sea life environment and they won't try to create a super thrill ride."

Sea World of Orlando and five sister parks were purchased for $1.1 billion two years ago by Anheuser Busch Cos. Inc., the St. Louis brewer and owner of Busch Gardens parks.

Anheuser-Busch has spruced up the Orlando Sea World since the purchase, and this year opened "Terrors of the Deep," an eel and shark exhibit.

Price increases have occurred with the improvements. Sea World has raised admission twice in the past year. Adult admission is $29.95 with tax, children's admission is $25.50.

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