SeaWorld Ends Deal With Evans to Build a Hotel in Mission Bay

by on November 26, 2018 · 6 comments

in Ocean Beach

Back in March of this year, the OB Rag reported that SeaWorld and Evans Hotels had entered a deal in January to build a hotel at SeaWorld’s location in Mission Bay.

But it has all gone sour. Earlier this month, SeaWorld Entertainment released its quarterly report which stated the company had decided in September to cancel the agreement with Evans. SeaWorld reported it lost $2.8 million in expenses and fees in unraveling the deal.

So, why the termination? What are the official explanations?

Lori Weisberg at the San Diego Union-Tribune racked up the following reasons.

Hotels are no longer a priority for SeaWorld. Interim CEO John Reilly stated:

“Longer term, I’d say, we still believe lodging is a priority for us. However, and as we look at this revamped capital strategy, we have done some realigning of our strategic priorities to make sure that … attendance-driving attractions in our parks are a top priority.”

SeaWorld is having an uptick in attendance and money coming in – after nearly 5 years of declines since the release of documentary “Blackfish” in 2013 and steady protests at its San Diego gates. Weisberg reports:

The revival of the business parallels the debut of more high-profile park attractions, most notably thrill rides like the Electric Eel coaster that debuted in San Diego earlier this year.

The move to develop hotels within the SeaWorld parks — similar to what Disney and Universal have done at many of their resorts — originated with former CEO Joel Manby, who resigned earlier this year. The agreement formalized by SeaWorld was struck a month before he exited the company. … It was part of Joel Manby’s plan and … Joel Manby is out.

Yet, not mentioned in Weisberg’s article are the problems and obstacles standing in the way of SeaWorld and Evans the OB Rag has outlined.

  • SeaWorld’s hotel project needed to secure a lease amendment, subject to the approval of the City of San Diego, before it could have moved forward with any hotel.
  • SeaWorld also needed an amendment of the Mission Bay master plan; and
  • approval from the California Coastal Commission, a process that SeaWorld admitted could take up to 4 years.

But as the OB Rag has been writing these last 3 years, there’s other – deeper – problems with SeaWorld building a hotel on its site.

When the themepark first announced back in 2015 that it was partnering with local mega-hotelier Evans to build a hotel at its site, the OB Rag published a report outlining the problems with the hotel plan in November of 2015, entitled, Why SeaWorld Can’t Build a Hotel at its Location on Mission Bay where we stated:

SeaWorld needs to re-appraise the [hotel] project, for the last time a major hotel was planned for that area of Mission Bay – it ended in disaster. In the early 1980s, Ramada wanted to build a resort – and the city had given the go-ahead.

But when it came time to begin construction, it was uncovered that a toxic landfill sat beneath all that sand. The old Mission Bay Landfill.  … the City ran an domestic and industrial landfill from 1952 through 1959 right there on the southern edge of Mission Bay, the largest aquatic park on the West Coast.

The City, the Navy, and the aerospace industry all poured their waste or dumped barrels of toxins into unlined sand pits at the site, located between what’s now I-5, south to the San Diego River, north to the water of the Bay, and west into land now occupied by parking lots and … SeaWorld.

This is why SeaWorld cannot build a 3 story hotel and resort, as it wants to, next to Perez Cove. There’s an old toxic landfill within yards away. Any 3 story building, I am told by an engineer, would require at least one story underground and steel beams driven into the sandy soil down 30 feet. This excavation into what’s below could very well disturb toxic gases and who knows what else.

Could these be the real reasons SeaWorld has pulled out of the Evans deal? We’ll never know. But right after that 2015 article, the OB Rag began to be harassed by “fans” of SeaWorld.

Yet, for whatever reason, we’re glad to see the aquatic-themed park on our land is no longer considering such a hotel deal.





{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Vern November 26, 2018 at 3:41 pm

Is all of SD simply afterthought upon afterthought?


judi curry November 26, 2018 at 5:41 pm

Now if they could forgo the new roller coaster, which I do not think really helps animals in distress, or helps with reproduction, I might return.


Ol OB Hippie November 26, 2018 at 8:32 pm

Don’t get me going on Seaworld and the damage it causes to its own animals, to the wildlife in Mission Bay, to our own air, the water in Mission Bay. They stink and good riddance!


Frank Gormlie November 26, 2018 at 8:01 pm

Weisberg also discussed briefly rumors of SeaWorld being sold. Legoland, Disney, now Six Flags. Just rumors she concludes.


Debbie November 27, 2018 at 9:53 am

I bet it sells….and that would be ever worse than Sea World!


retired botanist November 28, 2018 at 7:32 am

Anything other than downscaling it into a rehab facility for marine life, which it admittedly does provide in a very reduced, opportunistic way, is a travesty. I will never understand how the Coastal Commission allowed theme park rides, daily fireworks, and incarcerated performing animals to blight the southern California coastline. And as I have said many times, polar bears in southern California is just plain disgusting…that’s the scenario they use for “education”? Ugh.
Seaworld is a shameful, huge blot on the copybook of the City and the regulatory agencies. Tear it down and take it away.
The toxic landfill that resides beneath and out of eyesight? If it prevents hotels and more hideous corporate development, maybe its a good thing….


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