SeaWorld was the idea of four graduates of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1964. The original idea was an underwater restaurant, but it was not technically feasible, so the concept grew into the reality 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.
In 1968, SeaWorld offered its stock publicly, which enabled the company to grow. A second park was built in Aurora, Ohio, in 1970. 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. In 1989 the Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., purchased the SeaWorld parks from HBJ. The parks are owned and operated by Busch Entertainment Corporation (BEC), one of Anheuser-Busch's subsidiaries. In January 2001, BEC sold SeaWorld Cleveland to Six Flags, Inc.
SeaWorld grew from a small collection of marine animals into one of the largest and most respected marine zoological collections in the world. All three parks are accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) — a recognition that the facilities have achieved high levels of animal husbandry, medical care, and management competence in their zoological exhibition, collections, public education, and park operations.
Throughout SeaWorld’s history, the three parks have remained committed to their founding principles of quality in the areas of education, entertainment, research, and conservation.
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