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SeaWorld entrance getting makeover

SeaWorld San Diego is looking to give the park entrance a facelift and make it more efficient for guests, as the marine-life theme park will start a multimillion dollar renovation project in December.

SeaWorld said this week it will completely change the park’s front gate and create a themed entrance, titled Explorer’s Reef.

The new entrance project is expected to take 16 months to complete and open in March 2014.

John Reilly, SeaWorld San Diego’s park president, said the hope with this themed entrance is to immediately submerge patrons into an undersea realm.

“Explorer’s Reef will transform our guests' arrival by providing them with unparalleled welcoming services and then transporting them into the world of the sea as they pass under an iconic and stunning wave,” Reilly said.

SeaWorld officials would not reveal what general contractor has been selected for the project.

Once inside the park, a tropical coral-themed design of new animal attractions, buildings and shade structures will greet guests.

It is meant to give patrons the feeling of walking on the bottom of the ocean, and offer them their first chance to interact with almost 5,000 different sea creatures in four touch pools totaling 24,000 gallons.

“Guests will be able to interact with incredible sea creatures, including sharks, rays, skates and even horseshoe crabs, and the delicate little cleaner fish will nibble at your hands when you put them in the water,” Brian Morrow, SeaWorld’s creative director, said.

Explorer’s Reef will encompass more than three acres at the front of the park and will also include new retail and culinary options for guests.

Also part of this project will be a new front-gate concept that will replace the existing ticket booths with a beach-themed, concierge-style ticketing area that will provide guests with a single location to purchase tickets, as well as sign up for tours and animal interactions. The glass window between the guests and park’s ticketing service representatives will be eliminated, providing a more open area when patrons enter the park.

SeaWorld will build a temporary gate, just to the right of the current main entrance to the park, prior to construction of Explorer’s Reef.

SeaWorld said the temporary gate is to ensure the entrance to the park will not be disrupted during construction.

David Koontz, communications director for SeaWorld, said he could not give an exact amount for the cost for the project because of company policy, though he did say it would be in the “tens of millions of dollars.”

Construction is not expected to affect parking, according to SeaWorld officials.

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