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25th Anniversary Issue

Current 25: SeaWorld and Highway 151

1986-1990

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When William Jovanovich announced in early 1985 that San Antonio was to be the site of the next SeaWorld theme park, he declared that the city would be the next Orlando. And after years of rumors that the Disney organization would bring the next Disney World to San Antonio, the news seemed to put the city on the threshold of becoming a major international visitor destination. Jovanovich promised a year-round park, drawing three million annual visitors to start and reaching five million as the park and San Antonio grew in stature. His consultant, Harrison “Buzz” Price was less optimistic, forecasting just 1.5 million attendees. That conclusion got Price fired. We got a park that started strong with 2.9 million visitors. By the third year attendance was down to 1.45 million, about where it’s stayed since. We did get Fiesta Texas. But we never became Orlando, and likely never will.

We also go a new road, Highway 151, the Raymond Stotzer Freeway, from near downtown out to the new SeaWorld. And if 151 ended up not clogged with tourists meandering between Shamu and the River Walk, it did open up the Westover Hills area for a massive spurt of development. We didn’t get a flood of tourists. We got a deluge of new houses.

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