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Will Aquatica finally turn Orlando into a three resort town ?

Will Aquatica finally turn Orlando into a three resort town ?

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A while back, I found myself watching "Jaws 3D" (Alright. I know. It's a really awful movie. As Statler said to Waldorf in "The Muppet Movie," "I've seen detergents that leave a better film than this").

Mind you, I wasn't watching this Joe Alves film because I'm a "Shark Week" enthusiast. But -- rather -- because "Jaws 3D" was shot on location at SeaWorld Orlando back in 1983. Which makes this movie a fascinating look back at what this marine-based theme park used to be like.

 Copyright 1983 MCA / Universal. All Rights Reserved

If you look past Dennis Quaid and those water skiers in the above image capture, you'll see some South Seas-themed structures. Conversely, if you look past the bumper boats in the picture below, you'll see some pseudo-modern-looking blue-roofed exhibition halls in the background.

 Copyright 1983 MCA / Universal. All Rights Reserved

That -- in a nutshell -- pretty much captures what SeaWorld was like back in the late 1970s / early 1980s. Back when this theme park was owned & operated by a company that printed textbooks. The accent back then wasn't so much on theming and entertainment. But -- rather -- on education.

But all that began to change when Anheuser-Busch acquired the SeaWorld chain of theme parks back in October of 1989. Immediately recognizing that its Central Florida property would seriously have to step up its game if it wanted to compete with the Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando resorts, Busch Entertainment aggressively began reinventing this theme park. Doing things like ripping out SeaWorld's old 1970s-era mall-style entrance ...

Copyright 1983 MCA / Universal. All Rights Reserved

... and then replacing that bland looking area with a beautifully themed million gallon lagoon that featured statues of sealife as well as an iconic lighthouse.

 Copyright 1998 Busch Entertainment Corporation. All Rights Reserved

"Why did Busch Entertainment do that?," you ask. Because they wanted to raise people's expectations. Give guests some sense of the fun & excitement that could be found just beyond those turnstiles.

And for the past 10 years, SeaWorld Orlando has worked hard to meet those raised expectations. Continually adding exciting new thrill rides like Journey to Atlantis and Kraken as well as world class shows like "Blue Horizons," "Mistify!" and "Believe." Not to mention that theme park's new Waterfront area with its highly themed collection of restaurants & shops.

 Copyright 2000 Busch Entertainment Corporation. All Rights Reserved

But the Busch Entertainment Group really put Disney & Universal on notice when it opened Discovery Cove, Orlando's first boutique theme park. This hugely popular SeaWorld spin-off is only open to a thousand guests each day. There they can dive down and explore a coral reef, drift along in a tropical river or swim with dolphins.

 Copyright 2007 Busch Entertainment Corporation. All Rights Reserved

It was the July 2000 opening of Discovery Cove that really began to change the way that Central Florida tourists viewed SeaWorld Orlando. No longer was this the theme park that you only saw if you had an extra day on your vacation. Now people actually began building their Orlando trips around Discovery Cove reservations. And then to make the most of all the new rides, shows and attractions to be found at SeaWorld Orlando, these folks began spending two or more days exploring that theme park as well.

 Copyright 2007 Busch Entertainment Corporation. All Rights Reserved

But now comes the real game-changer: Aquatica. Opening on March 1st, this state-of-the-art water park will feature 36 slides -- including two enclosed tubes that will send you flying through a lagoon filled with Commerson's dolphins. Built on an 59-acre parcel that's located right next door to SeaWorld Orlando directly across International Drive, Aquatica will have 80,000 square feet of beach, private cabanas, a wave pool, exotic animal encounters ... Everything that you could possible want to experience during a day at the water park.

Copyright 2007 Busch Entertainment Corporation. All Rights Reserved

Then when you factor in the news that Grove Street Partners (i.e. That Atlanta-based real estate firm) will be building two brand-new 200-room Marriott hotels directly adjacent to Aquatica ... More importantly, that Busch Entertainment is reportedly partnering with Marriott to create new SeaWorld-themed vacation packages that will allow that hotel chain's guests to have special access to SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove and Aquatica ... One has to wonder: Is Orlando about to become a three resort town? Where SeaWorld can position itself as the more relaxing alternative to staying on property at Disney and/or Universal?

 Copyright 2007 Busch Entertainment Corporation. All Rights Reserved

The folks at Busch Entertainment Corporation certainly seem to think that something big is about to go down in O-town. Otherwise would they be moving their corporate headquarters from St. Louis to Orlando? Clearly the officers of this division of Anheuser-Busch believe that they need to have their feet on the ground here in town if SeaWorld Orlando is finally really going to become truly competitive with Disney and Universal.

That's why it's going to be really interesting to see what happens over the next 25 years. Given everything that's happened to SeaWorld Orlando since 1983 (Where -- according to "Jaws 3D" -- all they had to worry about was the occasional Great White Shark slipping into the lagoon and eating members of that theme park's water skiing team) ... I can't wait to see what the future holds for this place.

Copyright 1983 MCA / Universal. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, if you can't really wait to see what the future holds for SeaWorld Orlando, you may want to check out Orlando Fun Ticket's latest offer. Which gets you a second day free at this theme park.

Orlando Fun Tickets is located less than 2 miles from the Walt Disney World Resort, 2 lights west of I-4 at 8472 Palm Parkway. Their office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. For further information, please call 866-225-4712 and/or check out the official Orlando Fun Tickets website.

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  • I really hope that Aquatica turn Orlando into a three resort town. I have been hoping for it to happen for a long time and I will be very pleased if it finally happens. Excited to see what happens.

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