Friday, January 12, 2007

Vallejo's Marine World to become Discovery Kingdom

Marine World to become Discovery Kingdom

Sources say park will re-brand, designate park into three areas

By Matthias Gafni, Times-Herald staff writer

Article Launched: 01/12/2007 06:54:16 AM PST

After decades showcasing sea life in its name, the Marine World branding will soon be sleeping with the fishes, the Times-Herald learned Thursday.

On Wednesday, Six Flags President and CEO Mark Shapiro is scheduled to visit the Vallejo park and announce its new name - Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, say industry sources. The corporate head will also announce a new design to the park, dividing the property into Sky, Sea and Land, sources said.

"It's the whole re-branding thing," says Tim Baldwin, a writer with Texas-based amusement park trade magazine Amusement Today.

"They're trying to capture a little niche with each part of the park offering a different experience," he said.

Six Flags officials remained tight-lipped Thursday on any name change or improvements.

"We don't want to confirm anything right now," said park spokeswoman Nancy Chan. "Everything is under a shroud of secrecy."

Speculation grew last week when park officials mailed out press fliers announcing Wednesday's press conference with Shapiro, touting a "landmark announcement."

"We are aware they intend to change the name of the park," said Jim Reikowsky, of the Vallejo Convention and Visitors Bureau, who hadn't heard the new name yet.

"The park has changed a great deal, so I think it's a natural thing as it evolves. Š It may need to be re-branded and time to change the name," he said.

Six Flags Marine World originally came to Vallejo from Redwood City in 1986 as Marine World Africa USA, and has changed its name over time.

In addition to the name change and new park design, the park plans on adding a Holiday in the Park event for December 2007, said Amusement Today editor/publisher Gary Slade.

"It's a themed-Christmas operation. They put up millions and millions of Christmas lights, have Christmas-themed shows, Christmas decorations Š" Slade said. "It's like their Halloween event (Fright Fest), but for Christmas.

"It's a good way for Six Flags to stretch the season to make more money and stretch their revenue, but at the same time it also keeps your kids employed Š offering more economic assistance to your community," Slade said.

The name game

The Marine World theme park evolution has brought a flurry of names, including:

• Marine World Africa USA
• New Marine World Theme Park
• Six Flags Marine World
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (to debut in 2007 season)

The park's plans came to light as Six Flags, Inc. announced Thursday it agreed to sell three of its water parks, including Concord's Waterworld USA, and four of its theme parks to PARC 7F-Operations Corp. of Jacksonville, Fla. for $312 million.

"We're pleased with the sale price for this portfolio of parks, particularly since we were able to retain the Magic Mountain parks," Shapiro said in a released statement. "This transaction confirms the value inherent in our major market branded parks."

The company is attempting to shed several hundred million dollars in debt over the next several years, and improve operational and financial flexibility, according to a Six Flags statement.

However, industry analysts say the Vallejo park appears safe.

"I would anticipate at this time, with them adding the holiday park and the name change that this is a park they want to hang on to," Slade said.

E-mail Matthias Gafni at or call 553-6825.

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