SeaWorld Entertainment took the first steps Tuesday to replace a South Bay water park with the country's second Sesame Place theme park.
The groundbreaking ceremony at what is currently Aquatica San Diego in Chula Vista will mark the beginning of construction on the new 17-acre park.
Sesame Place San Diego is expected to open in spring 2021.
Construction will start in Aquatica's off-season and resume after Aquatica closes out its final season next year.
David Koontz, a spokesman for SeaWorld San Diego, said all but one of Aquatica's waterslides, HooRoo Run, will remain as the site transforms into Sesame Place.
HooRoo Run will become a small amphitheater for ‘Sesame Street’ character shows, Koontz said.
The park will also boast family-fun rides, parades and interactive experiences.
Sesame Place San Diego is expected to have an "expanded season" beyond what is currently in place for Aquatica but will not be open year-round. The water slides will be open during the summer months but closed the rest of the year.
"We’re still developing the operating calendar, but safe to say that we will open in the spring and run through fall," Koontz explained.
The new park continues a pivot by Orlando-based SeaWorld away from live animal shows.
SeaWorld announced the end of its breeding program in March 2016, after years of pressure from animal rights advocates and shifting public opinion about orcas being held in captivity.
The protests intensified after the release of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," which focused on the life of Tilikum, a killer whale responsible for killing a trainer when he dragged her into a pool in front of shocked visitors in 2010.
The company in the past year, though, has seen a reversal of fortune. Attendance was up 8.6% during the 2018 fiscal year, as was revenue. For the first half of this year, attendance was up 1.7%.
In the past year, SeaWorld also has been offering specialized services at its parks for visitors with autism, and Sesame Place San Diego will also offer those services.
The first Sesame Place theme park opened almost 40 years ago outside Philadelphia and the San Diego park will be slightly larger than its counterpart.
The city of Chula Vista is proud that SeaWorld chose their city as the location for their second park.
"We are proud that the City of Chula Vista will be the first West Coast location for Sesame Place. SeaWorld is a great community partner and we look forward to another successful family-friendly attraction in our city," a spokesperson for Chula Vista said.
The new park is the latest in an expanding partnership between SeaWorld and Sesame Street, which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. SeaWorld's Orlando park opened a Sesame Street section earlier this year.