Florida-based SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment plans an 18-month slate of companywide events and park enhancements commemorating the 50th anniversary of SeaWorld San Diego, starting in March 2014.

The Mission Bay theme park opened on March 21, 1964. Its parent company has announced a March opening of Explorer’s Reef, an interactive entrance plaza, following a 16-month reconstruction of the park’s front gate area.

A company statement said the multimillion-dollar renovation now underway will replace existing ticket booths with a beach-themed, concierge-style ticketing area, and there will be new retail and food options. Sculptural and design elements in the three-acre plaza will evoke the look of waves crashing over a reef, and there will be up-close encounters with shark pups and other marine life via multiple touch pools.

The company’s SeaWorld parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio will also have a “Surprise Squad” giving away anniversary themed prizes, and visitors will have surprise encounters on the parks’ grounds with animals including penguins, lemurs and flamingos.

There will be “spontaneous” live entertainment, along with giant sea life sculptures displayed throughout the parks. The company is also launching new interactive applications, allowing visitors to connect to the parks and with other visitors through mobile devices.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is a wholly owned subsidiary of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., which recently became publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SEAS.

The company’s SeaWorld Orlando opened in 1973, and SeaWorld San Antonio debuted in 1988.

— SDBJ Staff Report