Sea World San Antonio Celebrating its 30th Birthday

Sea World San Antonio, formerly called Sea World of Texas, is marking its 30th anniversary this weekend, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Sea World opened on May 27, 1988 in what was then rural, undeveloped northwest Bexar County.  It was the brainchild of developer Marty Wender, who saw it as the centerpiece of his Westover Hills project.

This was even before Highway 151 was built, and the entire region at the time was scrubland and mesquite trees.  

In the past thirty years, Sea World has jump started the massive growth in homes and businesses in what is now northwest San Antonio.  Westover Hills and Alamo Ranch, both in the Sea World area, are now the among the fastest growing census tracts in Bexar County.

At the time of its opening, Sea World was billed as ‘the largest educational, marine life theme park in the world.’

Carl Lum, the President of Sea World of San Antonio, says the park has evolved since then, but its mission remains the same.

“We were always known for great animal experiences and interactions,” he said.  “But we have great rides, great shows, and great events.”

Sea World is a different park today than it was when 73,000 people passed through in May of 1988, mainly to watch Shamu the Killer Whale perform its shows.

First, Sea World Parks has been through several ownership changes.  The San Antonio park was opened by Harcourt Brace Javonovich, the company best known for publishing.  It was then sold to Anheuser-Busch, the beer company, who was itself sold to ImBev, which spun off the Sea World parks to the hedge fund manager Blackstone Group.

Then, Sea World itself has evolved.  In 2016, Sea World ended captive orca breeding at its parks, and since then it has taken on a role as the world’s largest ocean rescue operation, helping thousands of sea animals who are stranded or crippled.

“That has always been in our DNA over our history,” Lum said.  “What we’re doing now is just doing a better job of telling people what we do.”S

ea World has also ramped up its entertainment offerings, opening roller coasters like the Steel Eel and Wave Breaker.  It is moving more aggessively into events, and hosting large groups of people.

And Lum says, even though orca breeding is over, Shamu will be around for a long time, and is still a main attraction.

“We’ll still take great care of the orcas in our care that we have in the past,” he said.  “They live longer under our human care than they live in the wild.”

Sea World’s attractions like Discovery Point are now less about seeing whales, dolphins, and other animals perform, and more about education about conservation and preservation efforts.

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