SeaWorld San Diego placed 14th among North American theme parks in 2015, but was the only venue among the top 20 to see attendance drop in 2015, according to the latest annual visitor report from the Themed Entertainment Association and consulting firm AECOM.
The report said the Mission Bay marine park had 3,528,000 visitors in 2015, down 7 percent from 2014. The top 20 parks as a group posted 5.9 percent growth in visitors in 2015 over the prior year, bringing in more than 146.3 million visitors.
The top 20 was led by Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, with attendance rising 6 percent to nearly 20.5 million. The top five was rounded out by Disneyland in Anaheim (18.3 million; up 9 percent), Disney’s Epcot in Florida (11.8 million; up 3 percent), Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida (10.9 million; up 5 percent), and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida (10.8 million; up 5 percent).
Most theme park companies do not break out figures for individual venues, so the annual report is based on researchers’ estimates and data derived from multiple industry sources.
In its own filings with the city of San Diego, required because the marine park operates on land leased from the city, SeaWorld San Diego reported 2015 attendance of just over 3.6 million, down 4 percent from 2014.
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., the park’s Florida-based parent, has been dealing with declining U.S. revenue and attendance, spurred in large part by fallout from the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” raising issues about the treatment of killer whales. The company in the past year has announced the phase-out of killer whale performance shows and captive orca breeding at its three SeaWorld parks, among other responses.