When Steve Birket and Kile Ozier were putting together their “Ethics, Ethos…and the Elephant in the Room” panel for Day One of the 2016 TEA Summit (March 31 at Disneyland Resort), one of the first experts to be brought on as a panelist was Anthony Esparza, Chief Creative Officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. TEA, of course, stands for Themed Entertainment Association. Birket (Birket Engineering) is TEA International President.
STORY by Joe Kleiman, IPM News Editor. ABOVE PHOTO: Orca Encounter, SeaWorld San Diego
The orca in the room
The TEA Summit panel will cover “elephant” topics such as human rights, emerging foreign markets and environmental challenges. SeaWorld is a good fit here, especially in light of its recent big announcement – but also because the company has faced a variety of issues over the past years, ranging from the creation of one of the world’s first zero entry dolphin encounter pools to continuing negotiations on a Middle East park and a progressive approach to animal care. Because Day One of the TEA Summit is a peer discussion with no press allowed, the elephant will stay in the room. Co-chairs of Day One are Joanna del Moral of VOA Associates, and Melissa Townsend of The Attraction Services Company.
Since joining new SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby’s executive team (they worked together previously at Herschend) Esparza remains busy overseeing major attractions for the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks, including MAKO at SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Point at SeaWorld San Antonio, and Cobra’s Curse at Busch Gardens Tampa, all opening this year. 2017 will see a new Orca Encounter experience and Ocean Explorer in San Diego and a crowdsource-designed and named wooden coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
100 years of zoo leadership: San Diego
Speaking of elephants, and tigers, and lions, and many other creatures, Day One of the TEA Summit will also feature a profile of the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park which is being honored with the 2016 Thea Classic Award, as the Zoo enters its second century of operation. Carmi G. Penny, Director of Collections Husbandry Science/Curator of Mammals, San Diego Zoo and David E. Rice, FAIA, Director of Architecture and Planning, San Diego Zoo Global will be speaking about the parks and their history. Currently under construction is Africa Rocks. At $68 million, it is the largest project in the Zoo’s history.
Unlike Day One, Day Two of the TEA Summit (April 1) is deemed open to media attendance requests, and welcomes a broader audience overall, including students. Chaired by Roberta Perry of ETI and Pat MacKay of Ones&ZerosMedia, Day Two is completely devoted to Thea Case Studies, exploring the projects that will be honored the evening of April 2 at the annual, black-tie Thea Awards Gala at the Disneyland Hotel, an event replete with the superstars of the themed entertainment industry. InPark Magazine will be present and will be interviewing a number of presenters, recipients, and attendees. Look for extensive coverage on our website early next month!