SeaWorld's Aquatica will introduce an innovative hybrid concept to San Diego on June 1 that combines a marine park with a water park, allowing visitors to interact with animals like dolphins, stingrays and flamingos as they zip down water slides.
SeaWorld San Diego purchased Knott's Soak City in Chula Vista from the parent company of Knott's Berry Farm for $15 million and plans an extensive renovation of the separate-admission water park about 20 miles south of the marine park.
Aquatica water parks already exist at SeaWorld locations in Florida and Texas. The Orlando Aquatica, which set the high-water mark for water parks when it debuted in 2008, includes a tube slide that passes through a pool of dolphins. The San Antonio Aquatica, which opened in May, features a family raft slide that winds through an underwater grotto past stingrays and tropical fish.
While SeaWorld San Diego has yet to announce any planned upgrades, concept art suggests flamingos may be incorporated into a signature animal interaction water slide at the new Aquatica water park.
Opened in 2000 as White Water Canyon, Knott's Soak City in Chula Vista is a fairly typical water park with several water slide complexes, a wave pool, a water play tower and a lazy river. In recent years, the water park added a tube slide with a six-story funnel and a 700-foot-long family raft slide.
SeaWorld plans to extensively renovate the existing water park, adding a South Seas theme, sandy beaches suitable for sunbathing and a marquee animal interaction attraction.
The sale does not involve other Knott's Soak City locations in Palm Springs or Buena Park (adjacent to the Knott's theme park). Soak City water parks (minus the Knott's name) will continue to operate at Ohio's Cedar Point and other locations in the Cedar Fair theme park chain.
It remains to be seen if the new Aquatica in San Diego will be closer in ambition, size and scope to its $50-million Orlando cousin (36 slides on 60 acres) or its much smaller $24-million San Antonio relative (18 slides on 20 acres).
The San Diego water park currently boasts 27 water slides on 32 acres, with an additional 10 acres of vacant land suitable for expansion depending on SeaWorld's aspirations.