UPDATED: Busch Gardens set to reopen Aug. 6
Under Phase Three, the park had opted not to open.
Updated Thursday, July 30: Busch Gardens will reopen to the public Aug. 6, although not the entire park, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. announced Thursday.
The park will open for the first time this year Aug. 6-16 for its Coasters and Craft Brews event. Three roller coasters and the Screamin’ Swing ride will be open, and the park will serve beer and barbecue during four-hour stints Thursdays through Sundays. The park will open for members only Aug. 5. Reservations will be required to attend the event, and the park will observe social-distancing and mask requirements. More safety information is available here.
Busch Gardens may reopen in early August, according to SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., which owns the Williamsburg amusement park.
Under Phase Three of Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan, the park was allowed to reopen with up to 1,000 visitors but chose not to because it was not economically viable, company officials said. The park, as well as neighboring Water Country USA and the rest of SeaWorld’s properties closed in March due to the pandemic. Water Country remains closed, and no announcement was made regarding its reopening plans.
SeaWorld made the announcement Wednesday in a preliminary report of its second quarter earnings. “The company expects its Busch Gardens theme park in Virginia to commence a phased reopening in early August 2020.” SeaWorld’s parks in Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania reopened in June and July, although its properties in California have not.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg employs 4,500 full- and part-time people, and during its initial closures, SeaWorld Entertainment had furloughed approximately 95% of its employees. This massive economic hit has been felt by Williamsburg and James City County. Williamsburg has for the past few months reported the greatest drop in hotel revenues across the state, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has furloughed hundreds of people.
It was not clear whether the governor’s new executive order restricting gatherings of more than 50 people in Hampton Roads and the Peninsula, including Williamsburg, would impact reopening plans at the amusement park. The order, which also limits alcohol sales and seating at restaurants and other establishments, takes effect midnight Thursday. It will remain in effect until the governor rescinds the order.
SeaWorld, which has implemented new safety and hygiene protocols at its reopened parks, reported only 300,000 visitors in the second quarter, down 6.2 million from last year, and total revenue for the quarter is expected to reach only $18 million, compared to $406 million in 2019.
But since reopening its Aquatica and SeaWorld parks in Texas, its five parks in Florida and its Sesame Place park in Pennsylvania, SeaWorld has seen improvement, with a 14% increase in attendance from the last week of June to last week.