Update 1-3-2011: Marineland of Florida announces the park has been sold to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta for 9.1 million from developer Jim Jacoby. Officials announce no immediate changes are planned for Marineland of Florida. Since Jacoby, a land developer, who is on the Georgia Aquarium board of directors, obviously had the connection to easily unload Marineland. When he purchased the park in 2001, he proceeded to demolish, destroy, and foever change this once historic landmark. The original Marineland of Florida was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. And thanks to Jacoby, former visitors and fans of the original Marineland of Florida, it is now only a distant memory. Many websites do not recommend visiting the new Marineland of Florida. That is not good. The main attraction now is swimming and interaction with the dolphins. The immersion experience is 60 minutes long (30 minutes with dolphins) for $209. The discover dolphins is 50 minutes long (20 minutes with dolphins) for $159. The touch and feed is 5 minutes long (3 minutes with dolphin) for $29. The trainer for a day is 4 hours long (60 minutes with dolphins) for $450. The dolphins designs has participants holding a canvas while a dolphin paints. This is 20 minutes long (10 minutes with dolphin) for $90. Extremely expensive programs. Admission to see very little is $8.50 for an adults 13 and up, $4.00 for children, and seniors 60+ is $7.25. The original Marineland of Florida packed visitors in for decades. There is no way the new Marineland can do that. By having only pricey dolphin interactions available, they have alienated and missed a huge amount of visitors that will go elsewhere to enjoy themselves. Just common sense. But everyone should go and judge for themselves.
Welcome to my blog on the original Marineland of Florida. A lot of people are not aware of the history and story of the first marinelife park created in the world. An interesting history it is. Marineland of Florida was created by W. Douglas Burton, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Sherman Pratt, and llya Tolsen. Their concept was to have a place to film marine life. What they did was build a very special place. These four people were visionaries who brought to life a great park which opened in 1938. This attraction was one that people of all ages would appreciate and enjoy for decades. In the 1960's, Marineland became the top tourist attraction drawing over 300,000 visitors.
However, with the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971, Marineland of Florida saw their attendance decline. However, with returning visitors still coming to the marine park, the 1980's saw an increase in visitors. Eventually the park became to costly to maintain for the real estate investment group who owned it at the time, and the facility sunk into disrepair. Finally through a convoluted deal involving junk bonds, the property was sold. The new owners wanted to build time share condominiums, but the plan never materialized.
Then in 1999, Hurricanes Floyd and Irene caused the park to close completely for two months. In 2003, all of the parks buildings on the west side of Highway A1A were demolished, leaving only the original structure on the Atlantic Ocean side. In 2004, demolition began on the remaining structures.
The last owner of Marineland, Atlanta businessman Jim Jacoby, decided to totally destroy this historic marine park as the pictures I took in 2005 show. This was so heartbreaking. Everyone knows what makes Europe a great vacation destination worldwide. The historic buildings. In the United States most developers can't wait to tear down and destroy most of our historic buildings.
To the left was the entrance to the original Marineland of Florida. This is where you bought your ticket and entered. As you walked in, you stepped down and there was a giant round tank (made of metal and brass) with portals for viewing the marinelife. The top part of the photo you can see an arch. This was the main stadium. It was round and had wooden bleachers for visitors to sit during the shows. The bucket cage you see was attached to a hydrolic arm. This is where a person stood to operate and position themselves for feeding the jumping dolphins. It was so much fun to watch this. Some people would stand at the edge of the tank and get splashed really hard.
The photo here shows Marineland around 2007 perhaps. This was photographed from the observation hill right overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The bilding with the roof is the gift shop. This has been there since at least the late 60's. Then you can see a tent. That is at the north section of the park. Major demolition and construction is still seen.
The photo on the left was shot around 2007 or 2008. This is looking north towards the park. Many people have defended what Jacoby did with the original park. They say it was so badly damaged that it had to be torn dorn. That is not true. There is no way to justify that Marineland couldn't be restored. Properties and buildings are restored and brought back to its original condition all the time. Jacoby wanted to create a swim with the dolphins attraction right from the start. And he succeeded. And at a heavy price. Few people can afford to participate with the new park. That is a fact. There are many examples of how business people do the stupid things. And this is a great example. Makes you wonder how they ever achieved at making money at all. It does me.
To the left is a photo of a photo taken around the mid 90's perhaps. Flamingos here were on the southeast section of the park very close to the restaurant and a large two story motel (both buildings are now gone). They always seemed content when I visited. They were so beautiful to see.
Also here is another great example of someone who had no regard for history like Jacoby did. In the 1970's, MGM Studios, that was created in 1924, was bought out by corporate raider Kirk Kirkorian. Eventually he auctioned off the studio's prized possesions, and sold 38 acres of the studio's back lots to housing developers. Debbie Reynolds begged him not to do it (she was an actress and worked at MGM Studios in the 1950's). She suggested that he save the studio and the history, and could make money by giving tours. Well he sold it anyway. Historic sets were leveled. He funneled the money that he drained from the studio into construction of the giant M-G-M Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. So Jim Jacoby and Kirk Kirkorian have a lot in common. That is a fact. They should both be very proud of these achievements.
So with the original Marineland of Florida that stood for roughly 70 years gone, millions of people only have memories of a really special place. Many, like myself, probably drive past this park on Highway A1A and remember an incredible and fun place. And know that it didn't have to end this way. And that is a shame.