On March 21st, 1964 the first SeaWorld opened in San Diego, here is a bit of history provided by the PR department of Busch Entertainment.
SeaWorld was founded in 1964 by four graduates of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). They had originally considered the idea of building an underwater restaurant. Although this idea was not technically feasible, the concept grew into the idea of a marine zoological park on 22 acres along the shore of Mission Bay in San Diego. With an initial investment of $1.5 million, 45 employees, several dolphins, sea lions, and two seawater aquariums, SeaWorld drew more than 400,000 visitors its first year—a clear indication of the public’s curiosity and fascination for marine animals.
In the earliest years, the park was held as a private partnership. Then, in 1968, SeaWorld offered its stock publicly, enabling the company to grow. In 1970, a second SeaWorld park was built—in Aurora, Ohio, near Cleveland. It was followed by a park in Orlando, Florida in 1973, and the largest park, which opened in San Antonio, Texas in 1988.Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. (HBJ), owned and operated SeaWorld from 1976 to 1989. Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. purchased the SeaWorld parks from HBJ in November 1989. The parks are owned and operated by Busch Entertainment Corporation (BEC), one of the Anheuser-Busch Companies. BEC also owns and operates Adventure Island in Tampa, Florida; Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia; Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida; Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania; and the newest member of the BEC family—Discovery Cove in Orlando. In January 2001, BEC sold SeaWorld Cleveland to Six Flags.Over the years, SeaWorld has grown from a small collection of marine animals into one of the largest and most respected marine zoological collections in the world. Its three parks are accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA)—a recognition that these facilities have achieved high levels of animal husbandry techniques; medical care; and management competence in their zoological exhibition, collections, public education, and park operations.
Throughout SeaWorld’s history, the parks have remained committed to SeaWorld’s founding principles of quality in the areas of education, entertainment, research, and conservation.
And a timeline of the early years...
Anheuser-Busch acquires SeaWorld
First successful killer whale birth (Orkid born Sept. 23)
Coco Loco Arcade
New five-million-gallon Shamu® Stadium
New Main Entrance Plaza
City Streets show
Entertainment Bowl @Nautilus
Sea Lion and Otter Stadium expansion
(replaces Seal and Penguin arena)
Marine mammal community pool
Seal and sea lion exhibitMission Bay Research Foundation becomes Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
Captain Kids’ World (kids’ play area)
Sea otter exhibit
Whale arena (later becomes Dolphin Stadium)
Water Fantasy Show
Seal and Penguin Arena
(later becomes Sea Lion & Otter Stadium)
First killer whale on public display
Parks opens March 21 on 22 acres on Mission Bay and includes:
Hawaiian Punch Village
Theater of the Sea
(The Mission Bay Research Foundation is founded in 1963 before park opens)