Let’s face it—with all of the controversy surrounding its parks, SeaWorld is a sinking ship. It’s time we revert back to textbooks and documentaries to learn about undersea life, and there are far better uses for the parks’ land anyway. I have an idea, and it’s the best idea: let’s turn all the SeaWorlds into race tracks.
Yes. I’m serious. It can be made to work, and it beats the heck out of what’s there now. First, let’s look at some immutable facts.
(Note: As for returning the captive animals to the wild and all of the procedures associated with doing so—or even the finances involved with such an operation—let’s save that for later. We’re in dreamland about new race tracks at the moment, and dreamland doesn’t involve making difficult decisions. Put the technicalities aside and just run with the idea for now.)
Fact No. 1: SeaWorld Is In Trouble
That’s putting it politely.
In the wake of continued profit losses (the company dropped 84 percent in net second-quarter income this year) and criticism from the public following the 2013 Blackfish documentary, SeaWorld continues to be in deep you-know-what—and I’m not talking about aquarium depths here. The documentary highlighted SeaWorld’s repulsive treatment of captive animals by following Tilikum, an orca involved in three human deaths during his time in captivity that currently resides at the Orlando park.
The film created a tide of public outrage toward SeaWorld that continues to this day, and the company recently announced that it will phase out its killer-whale show at the San Diego park, where it’s lost the most profit, by 2017 for a more “natural” version. A new resort is also in the works for the San Diego location, and the San Diego Tribune reports that funds for the resort will likely come from the $100 million originally set aside to help expand the park’s orca tanks.
Seriously, SeaWorld? Trying to attract more humans (and their wallets) rather than helping out your captive animals? That’s it. You’re out of control. Go to your room. Time for something better, like race cars.
Fact No. 2: SeaWorlds Take Up A Lot Of Space
The SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment group owns 11 facilities under names like Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove and Adventure Island, but for now we’ll stick to the three flagship SeaWorld locations for this project: Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio. Each are around 200 acres or more.
With all of this space we have to work with, we can put on just as good of a show (with less controversy) by slapping some race tracks onto the existing plots of land.
The only real problem of space comes with camping areas, since folks aren’t typically taking their RVs out to SeaWorld for an extended week-long stay with the family (could you imagine waking up to “Can we please, please, please go see the dolphins today?” for the third day in a row?). Race tracks allot a pretty good amount of camping space, but we’ll figure something out.
With all of the water hazards, a SeaWorld park would probably make a great golf course too. But golf isn’t nearly as loud or as fast as racing, eh? Don’t think we ignored the water hazards, though—those make great obstacles for our buddies in the SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks series, so we’ll replace the jumping orcas at Shamu Stadium with a few jumping trucks. Sounds better already.
Both the Orlando and San Diego SeaWorld locations come complete with a “Sky Tower,” which can either be used as a spotters stand (only one spotter at a road course? How revolutionary of us!) or rented out to the rich folks as suites. We’re leaning toward the second one, because the race tracks will need plenty of revenue to pay off all of the angry moms showing up at construction sites once we bulldoze the park their kid’s been asking to go to for, like, years.
It’s okay, moms. It’s just a phase. Soon they’ll care about video games way more than learning about nature. Who goes outside anymore, anyway?
Back to the technical stuff. Sure, we are working with smaller acreage than your everyday race track, but we have plenty of room for the essentials. Pit road at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway is .25 miles in length, and one square mile is 640 acres. We have between 200 and 250 acres available at the SeaWorld locations, giving us just enough room to fit a snug pit road able to service 43 NASCAR entries (and, essentially, the car counts of any other series).
We’ve positioned the pit roads at a rough estimate for how long they would need to be if we brought some machinery in to start paving over the dreams of kids prior to 2013, and built road courses around them with a few off-road detours for when those guys come to town.
As for the garages and hauler setups—well, we’ll just have to find a place for those and make a few pull-off roads later (likely by buying out some nearby land and bulldozing that too). Remember, folks: dreamland for now. Plus, a race track with no garage area is still better than a SeaWorld any day.
Fact No. 3: America Needs More Race Tracks
It seems like not a day goes by when we don’t hear about some American race track, big or small, road course or oval, drag strip or dirt track, facing some kind of financial turmoil.
Just in the past few months some of Jalopnik’s favorite tracks—Lime Rock, Laguna Seca and even Circuit of the Americas here in Austin—have dealt with different sorts of crises that seem to threaten their future. That’s to say nothing of the beloved smaller tracks that have closed down over the years as well.
For those tempted to race in the streets, we say, “Take it to the track.” But what if there are no tracks to go to? Plus, auto racing is a vitally important part of this country’s rich sporting tapestry, of our collective history. We need more tracks and we need them done right.
We don’t need more SeaWorlds.
Bearing all of this in mind, there is very clearly one solution: we Jalopnik folks made an executive decision in the midst of this madness. While SeaWorld busies itself with trying to “reinvent” its image, we’re busy reinventing the infrastructure its parks—to pave some race tracks.
Are you with us? Great. Let’s get to the pictures, because fancy diagrams are what sell ideas, right? Right.
SeaWorld Orlando: The (Sea)World Center Of Racing
Move over, Daytona International Speedway—there’s a new “World Center of Racing” in this state. That’s right. Welcome to the (Sea)World Center of Racing.
The Orlando SeaWorld location encloses about 200 acres of land, full of roller coasters and other rides for the kiddos. But if you haven’t noticed, we’ve virtually bulldozed a good handful of them to make room for grandstands.
(If you want to see the SeaWorld Orlando map prior to my paving and bulldozing of it—which admittedly took me back to the glory days of playing RollerCoaster Tycoon all day and all night—it’s right here.)
If the kids do get bored with the rides on the exterior of the course during the races, never fear—those red circles denote infield tunnels with full access to the goldmine of rides and roller coasters (that we didn’t bulldoze) in the center.
Folks wanting to watch the Stadium Super Trucks can pile into Shamu Stadium—which will certainly be rebranded, because the only way that brand could be more tainted would be if Shamu sold cigarettes to kids—to watch the trucks jump over their own fancy water hazard. Of course, the ramp will be plenty wide enough and we won’t make the trucks jump over that much water. They’re prone to flipping, if you haven’t noticed.
We didn’t complete the Stadium Super Trucks course because they’ll probably want to dream up their own track layout, but a joker lap and water jump in front of a big arena is pretty enticing for a series looking to fill its schedule.
Sea Lion and Otter Stadium will serve as an on-site racing museum. Since the track itself won’t have much racing history when we open it, we need somewhere for all of the history buffs to visit. Perhaps we’ll exhibit all of the ghost tracks and now-demolished facilities around the country, triumphing because we avenged those wrongful early speedway graves with new tracks—and we made the (sea) world a better place by doing so.
The “Terrace BBQ” building in the top right corner can be gutted and rented as suites to our wealthy guests, complete with a viewing deck (and flamingo pond) outside and all of the full-service bar access a person could want. But don’t get too tipsy in there, because you’ll want to watch the races.
In addition to the water views, the course itself should be a pretty entertaining one. But no need to put that into words—you can see how great the track layout is above.
San Diego: RoadDiego
SeaWorld San Diego hovers around the same size as Orlando, with nearly 200 acres of par...race track for us to work with. Paying homage to the “let’s smash two separate words into one, just because we can” idea that SeaWorld based its name around, welcome to RoadDiego.
(If you want to see the SeaWorld San Diego map prior to my paving and bulldozing of it, it’s right here.)
There is plenty of room for grandstands at this location, and the stadiums are positioned well enough that they can be used for crowd seating both when Stadium Super Trucks are in town and when they aren’t.
The rides at this SeaWorld location are a bit more kiddie oriented (bummer), but antsy children will still have places to run around. We’ll slap some aerodynamic front bumpers on the coaster passenger trains to overhaul the sea theme, and boom—they went from kiddie rides to super cool kiddie rides, just like that.
We’re definitely cleaning out the Animal Connections and Garden Plaza building in order to put some taco shops in there, because everyone likes tacos and not everyone likes how SeaWorld takes care of its animal population. The arcade just a few feet away can feature all of the car, motorcycle and general racing games around, and folks can always stop for a quick taco break when they feel like it.
We just have to keep NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip away from the taco stand, because he’s prone to dropping tacos on race cars prior to the start of a race... and then just walking off.
Pets Stadium will also make the perfect grounds for a karting track, for the purpose of breeding the future generation of speed demons during race weekends (finally, some breeding we can agree with on SeaWorld grounds!).
Convenient, right? Once we replace the dog bone on the outside with a checkered flag and repaint the arena in a sporty color, we’ll be good to go.
As for the Sea Lion and Otter Stadium, perhaps we’ll gut the inside and create a building with 360-degree suites and an atrium. That idea sounds so sweet on the surface that it doesn’t really need more details—just use your imagination.
The track itself will be surrounded by water on three sides, which means that if Formula One ever adds the California date that head honcho Bernie Ecclestone says he wants, everyone could just ride their yachts right up to the venue. So long to the days of “traffic” at the race track. This is the future.
SeaWorld San Antonio: Shamu Memorial International Speedway
Last up on our SeaWorld overhaul is the Texas location, served hot in both its weather and its controversy. We’re certainly not mourning the loss of Shamu with the “Shamu Memorial International Speedway” name, though—we’re celebrating the end of Shamu (would this be “Shami” in the plural, like “cacti”?) in captivity. #NeverForget, and such.
The San Antonio SeaWorld location is the biggest of them all at 250 acres, and we even managed to fit a hairpin turn in there.
(If you want to see the SeaWorld San Antonio map prior to my paving and bulldozing of it, it’s right here.)
This place is swimming with water rides (yes, I have run out of good aquatic jokes), so it’ll be the perfect destination for a summer road race. But at the same time, Texas is hot and everyone will probably melt while waiting in line anyway.
The setup at this location is nearly perfect for a race track—walking paths wrap around the course to the point that not much will have to be done as far as accessibility to different areas of the track goes. Superimpose a statue of Dale Earnhardt Sr. onto the fountain at the entrance and we are in business, friends.
We’ll buy out some more land to put grandstands in on the other side of pit road before we open this location to the public, but you get the general idea from the layout above. Unlike the map shows, there isn’t actually any water over there. Buy hey, we could probably make some floating grandstands if we needed to.
Since it’s conveniently located in between most of the grandstand areas, Nautilus Amphitheater could get a miniature (and more race track-looking) makeover and host driver appearances throughout race weekend.
The Sea Lion Stadium could serve a similar purpose, but for television—line up the pre-race TV crew at their desks and allow fans to sit down and watch the show rather than jumping around in the background. This would also let security crews confiscate all of those goofy fatheads and “Hi Mom!”—or, you know, whatever they say these days—signs that people wave in the background.
(Also, please note that your mom does not want to say hi to you while you’re at the race track that paved over the dreams of her screaming, upset grandchildren who have not yet learned the truth about SeaWorld. We’re doing you all a favor here.)
The next challenge is to name track turns at each location, so that television announcers may one day—maybe by the year 2050—refer to them with plenty of nostalgia from “back in the day.” We’ll refrain from calling that sweet segment of the San Antonio track above the “Harpoon Hairpin,” because it goes against the entire mindset behind this project even though it is oh-so catchy.
So go for it, Jalops. Here’s a Shamu dictionary with the orca names and their meanings, if you want to include some sentimentality in your corner titling. On top of that, feel free to give us any of your suggestions on how to further make SeaW...our new race tracks into better places.
Top photo: Patrick George
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org