ORLANDO, Fla. – Construction for Sesame Street at SeaWorld Orlando -- the theme park's newest addition -- is underway and is expected to be finished by next year, company officials announced Wednesday.
The cartoon-themed portion of the park, which will be located where Happy Harbor currently stands, will allow guests to explore the beloved neighborhood as they stroll through Abby Cadabby's garden, visit Mr. Hooper's store, spend some time in Big Bird's nest and sit on the well-known 123 stoop.
Parkgoers will also get the chance to meet the rest of their favorite Sesame Street friends, including Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird.
[TAKE QUIZ BELOW: Which Sesame Street character are you?]
With the new attraction comes SeaWorld's first ever parade, which will feature Elmo, his friends and dancers each day.
Of course, the cartoon-themed addition will also bring new rides to the park, as well as wet and dry play areas and interactive activities for family members of all ages.
“We are excited to transport our guests into the colorful and creative world of Sesame Street through immersive theming, character interactions and interactive play,” SeaWorld Orlando president Jim Dean said. “Sesame Street at SeaWorld Orlando is an amazing addition to our park, providing more unique and memorable experiences for the entire family.”
Park officials said SeaWorld is partnering with Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit organization focused on educational opportunities for children, to make the attraction one that offers visitors the opportunity to make a connection.
“In partnering with Sesame Workshop, we are creating a land for guests to make an authentic connection that can only be found in hugging a furry friend or reading a book with Big Bird,” Amanda Trauger, the experience design manager for SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, said.
University of Central Florida theme park professor Dr. Duncan Dickson said the new addition is how SeaWorld is trying to rebrand and revitalize the park. The theme park has been struggling with falling attendance and loss of revenue in wake of protests over its treatment of its killer whales, as highlighted in the 2013 documentary "Blackfish."
"I think they want to put 'Blackfish' in the past. They want to get people to think of SeaWorld as some place other than just that," Dickson said. "This is a way to do it. Get people to talk about something other than orcas."
Dickson adds using the beloved characters from Sesame Street will attract people of all ages, who either grew up with Elmo or now watch the show with their children.
"They're trying to appeal across generations so everybody can have fun and excitement with it," Dickson said.
Markesha Sloan and her 4-year-old daughter, Legacy, visited SeaWorld for the first time Wednesday.
Sloan said she used to watch Sesame Street as a child and plans to come back next spring when the new attraction opens to share those memories with her daughter.
"To know that I get to take her to SeaWorld and it's going to be there, it's going to be fun," Sloan said. "Basically bring her to my childhood. It's going to be fun."
Edwin Rodriguez lives in Central Florida and used to be an annual passholder. He said he'll come back to check out the new addition, adding the show has a special place in his family's heart.
"They still like it. My daughter and I grew up on Sesame Street," Rodriguez said.
Dickson said this is a step in the right direction for SeaWorld, but adds it will take time to rebrand.
"They're moving. It just takes a long time to move," he said.
The new attraction is expected to make its debut spring 2019 and will be located at the south end of the park, according to SeaWorld officials.
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