Sesame Place opens with Muppets and high hopes for South Bay economy
The new Sesame Place theme park officially opens to the public Saturday.
All the beloved Muppet characters will welcome visitors to a rebranded theme park now run by SeaWorld Entertainment and Sesame Workshop, the company that produces the powerhouse educational series "Sesame Street."
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The 17-acre Sesame Place project replaced the former Aquatica water park in East Chula Vista, which closed last year. There are millions of dollars in expected revenue for the South Bay, along with 900 jobs.
The workforce includes 600 former SeaWorld seasonal workers and an additional 300 new hires. Marc Swanson, CEO of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, said he was committed to continuing support to loyal employees.
“It’s not uncommon at our company to see people start here in high school, for example. They work their way through college and end up working here full time,” Swanson told KPBS News.
Some of the new employees include performers who join Muppet characters in a stage show. The musical is presented at the outdoor theater, which seats up to 800 people and was added for Sesame Place.
The Mikels family from Chula Vista visited Friday during a media preview event. They were happy to spend some money and enjoy the outdoors, something they have not done for a while as the pandemic battered their finances and future.
“It’s been rough with homeschooling the kids," Stephanie Mikels said. "Having to leave jobs and having to find new jobs because companies went under during the COVID, but it’s really heartwarming to be able to come and do something like this.”
Leah Mikels, 8, was happy to be back at the site of the former water park. “There’s new stuff and new names," she said. "It looks like a whole different place. I’m excited to try all the rides.”
There are a total of 18 rides at the new park. Seven of them are considered dry attractions, and the other 11 are "wet rides" that were renovated and rebranded with the Sesame Street theme.
This year, Forbes named SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment as one of America’s best large employers. Its affiliation with Sesame Street helps the park build on its reputation for education.
Children will be reminded of lessons they learned on the television show, said Ed Wells, global head of education for the Sesame Workshop. “What are kids experiencing right now, that’s what is important and we design a curriculum that meets those specific needs of children at that moment. So every season of Sesame Street is built on a new curriculum,” he said.
This is SeaWorld's second Sesame Place theme park. The original is in Philadelphia.