SAN DIEGO — SeaWorld San Diego unveiled plans Tuesday for its tallest and fastest roller coaster.
The announcement comes just days before the park’s iconic killer whale show comes to an end.
Read More: SeaWorld’s final orca show is Sunday
The Electric Eel roller coaster – which is scheduled to open in summer 2018 – will offer riders the only upside-down view of Mission Bay.
“Electric Eel will bring a whole new level of excitement to SeaWorld in 2018,” said SeaWorld San Diego’s Park President Marilyn Hannes. “This new, first-of-its-kind coaster at SeaWorld will give riders the rare opportunity to feel what it’s like to move like an eel as they twist and flip along nearly 900 feet of undulating track.”
This adrenaline-pumping coaster will propel riders forward and backward as they speed through the ride’s station house, accelerating to more than 60 miles per hour in seconds. Riders then rocket skyward nearly 150 feet where they will brave an inverted “heartline” roll and a twisting loop for an exciting feeling of airtime as riders crest the top before breathlessly returning to the station.
“The ride will let our guests experience the power and hunting techniques of this really unusual animal, the electric eel,” said Brian Morrow, Corporate Vice President of Theme Park Experience.
SeaWorld also plans to add three new major attractions in 2017: Ocean Explorer, the new Orca Encounter and the summer nighttime extravaganza Electric Ocean.
The coaster will also offer non-riders a digital learning experience and Ocean Explorer will also offer a live eel habitat that is expected to include an extensive collection of moray eels.
SeaWorld says the four new attractions will cap a two-year period of the most robust growth since the park’s opening more than half a century ago.
“The future is bright at SeaWorld and we remain committed to long-term investment,” said SeaWorld San Diego’s Park President Marilyn Hannes.
Electric Eel will join Manta and Journey to Atlantis as the third coaster-type ride experience at SeaWorld San Diego. It will be constructed on an approximately two-acre site on the eastern side of the park between the currently under-construction Ocean Explorer attraction and Journey to Atlantis.
“It’s out with the old and in with the new,” said Wendy Patrick, lecturer at San Diego State College of Business Administration. “SeaWorld over the last years, the only thing that took a plunge was attendance.”
Patrick said the plunge can be blamed on the backlash from “Blackfish,” a controversial movie about alleged abuse at the marine life park.
“That’s been a couple of years, but they’ve never fully recovered so what they’ve tried to do is go a different route,” said Patrick.
The route is now towards more entertainment, but with Southern California as the mecca for amusement parks, Patrick said there is a question of whether Sea World will sink or swim.
“Those parks take some of Sea World’s attendance because they offer more of an entertainment model,” said Patrick.
Sea World admits they’re banking on the Electric Eel to jumpstart a much-needed recovery.
“This is how you fix it,” said Morrow. “This is how to reinvent the park and tell the new stories that the guests actually want to hear.”
Morrow said it does not mean the stories of the past, like Shamu’s, are gone.
“They’re still going to be here, those whales aren’t going anywhere for many years to come,” said Morrow.
Morrow said it just means finding new ways to tell the stories.
“It’s a very different, but important way,” Morrow said.