SeaWorld's Black Wednesday — and What it Means for San Diego - Voice of San Diego

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SeaWorld's Black Wednesday — and What it Means for San Diego

SeaWorld acknowledged Wednesday that the so-called “Blackfish” bill may be affecting its bottom line, news that could mean smaller rent payments to the city of San Diego.

SeaWorld acknowledged Wednesday it’s getting hit with “Blackfish” blowback.

The announcement marked the first first time the company has admitted fallout from the movie may be dissuading potential visitors. The news almost instantly sunk SeaWorld stock. Within hours of the company’s earnings call, the Associated Press reported SeaWorld shares had dropped 30 percent.

San Diego is likely to feel some of the ripple effects of the news.

City taxpayers have a unique stake in SeaWorld’s success. SeaWorld San Diego is in city-owned Mission Bay Park, so the company pays rent to the city and its monthly checks are based on money coming into SeaWorld. The payments are calculated based on 19 SeaWorld revenue streams — everything from ticket sales to parking — so if more visitors come to SeaWorld and buy things, the city gets more cash.

Last year, the theme park paid the city about $14 million in rent. It’s required to fork over at least $10.4 million this year.

For months, SeaWorld executives have denied “Blackfish” has affected the company’s bottom line and a review of rent payments to the city last year seemed to support their claims.

That changed Wednesday. The company said its destination parks, including its SeaWorld locations, welcomed fewer visitors from April through June. It’s also projecting a 6 to 7 percent drop in revenue for the year.

The revenue decrease for SeaWorld San Diego is likely proportionately larger because the forecast is based on the performance of all 11 company-owned parks. Executives in the Wednesday announcement singled out lackluster attendance at its destination parks – those that draw out-of-town visitors, which includes SeaWorld.

Executives also specifically zeroed in on now-tabled state Assembly bill inspired by the 2013 movie panning its holding of killer whales in captivity in a Wednesday earnings announcement. The measure proposed ending killer whale shows and captive breeding programs.

“The company believes attendance in the quarter was impacted by demand pressures related to recent media attention surrounding proposed legislation in the state of California,” SeaWorld wrote in a Wednesday press release.

The company also pointed to a handful of other reasons for decreased attendance and revenues between April and June.

Among them were new offerings at other theme parks, later summer breaks in key markets and a delay associated with a new SeaWorld attraction.

For more on San Diego’s unique relationship with SeaWorld and its impact here, check out our recent quest on what SeaWorld and “Blackfish” mean for the region.

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