Sesame Place Opening West Coast Location - NBC 7 San Diego

Sesame Place Opening West Coast Location

The Sesame Place park will open in 2021 at the site of Aquatica San Diego.

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    There are plenty of sunny days to sweep the clouds away where SeaWorld is opening its next theme park.

    Officials with SeaWorld Entertainment and Sesame Workshop announced Monday that they are opening the country's second Sesame Place park in San Diego County in spring 2021. The first Sesame Place theme park opened almost 40 years ago outside Philadelphia.

    The announcement continues a pivot by Orlando-based SeaWorld away from live animal shows.

    The new 17-acre (6.5-hectare) Sesame Place will be located in Chula Vista, in a space currently occupied by the water park, Aquatica San Diego, which will have its final season next year.

    David Koontz, a spokesman for SeaWorld San Diego, said all but one of the waterslides (HooRoo Run) at the Aquatica site will remain as the site transforms into Sesame Place.

    "We will be constructing a small amphitheater in that location for ‘Sesame Street’ character shows," Koontz told NBC 7.

    Because the water attractions will stay intact, Koontz said Sesame Place San Diego should still be able to attract older kids as well as the younger "Sesame Street" preschool crowd. The water slides will be open during the summer months but close the rest of the year.

    He said the park will also boast family-fun rides, parades and interactive experiences.

    Koontz said it "makes perfect sense" to have Sesame Street theme parks on both coasts. He said San Diego, with its reputation as a tourist destination, also boasts a "growing demographic of young families" that’ll be attracted to this new theme park.

    Koontz told NBC 7 that construction on Sesame Place San Diego is expected to begin later this fall.

    Once it’s up and running, Koontz said the park won’t be open year-round, but will have an "expanded season" beyond what is currently in place for Aquatica.

    "We’re still developing the operating calendar, but safe to say that we will open in the spring and run through fall," Koontz explained.

    Monday's announcement is part of 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. Officials wouldn't disclose the cost of the park.

    Steve Youngwood, president of media and education and chief operating officer of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, said the two brands have common objectives.

    "We want to engage and educate families. We mutually respect each side's expertise and we collaborate together to make it work," Youngwood said.

    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 San Diego park will be slightly larger than the Sesame Street park outside Philadelphia. Construction will start in Aquatica's offseason and resume after Aquatica closes for the season next year.

    The park's opening in San Diego will open the Sesame Street experience to the western U.S., as well as to visitors from south of the border, said Marilyn Hannes, president of SeaWorld San Diego.

    "I think we will pull a more international audience," Hannes said.

    Back to those sunny days sweeping the clouds away, per Sesame Street's theme song, it is sunny in San Diego more than two-thirds of the time, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    NBC 7 San Diego reached out to the city of Chula Vista Monday for comment on the Sesame Place project.

    A spokeswoman released this statement: "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."

    NBC 7 San Diego contributed to this report.