As if plunging 150 feet down a floorless coaster isn't scary enough, SeaWorld has announced that its Kraken roller coaster will be retrofitted next year with virtual reality headsets to make riders feel like they are undersea being chased by mythical monsters.
It was part of an announcement from SeaWorld Entertainment about upgrades at parks across the country as the company continues to struggle with attendance and backlash from the documentary Blackfish.
Kraken will be Florida's first digitally-enhanced ride experience by the summer of 2017, the Orlando theme park announced.
"Guests will embark on a deep sea mission alongside sea creatures inspired by extinct and legendary animals of the past, including the mighty Kraken," a SeaWorld news release said.
Riders on Kraken will have the option of putting on the virtual reality headsets, which will be attached to the roller coaster and cover eyes and ears. Riders will hear music composed for the ride and see specially prepared images of the fictional Kraken and other animals.
Virtual reality has been popping up in theme parks across the country recently. Universal Orlando added a virtual reality attraction for Halloween Horror Nights as a separate ticket called "The Repository."
SeaWorld Entertainment said the company is spending $175 million on new attractions in the next year as it battles to stem a decline in attendance brought about by a backlash from killer whale shows. The company has seen a more than 33 percent drop in stock prices and last week announced it would stop paying dividends.
Other changes coming to the Orlando theme park are:
• SeaWorld's Dolphin Nursery will become more interactive in summer 2017, giving visitors up-close views of mother and baby dolphins at multiple levels. New digital displays will allow educators to share information on dolphin behavior, biology and conservation with guests through interactive video.
• Seven Seas Festival: The park's music and food events will expand to 14 weekends in 2017, featuring new culinary offerings inspired by street foods from Asia, the Caribbean, South America and the Mediterranean.
• Flamecraft Bar: This new bar will feature 16 seasonal craft brews and a new menu.
• Electric Ocean: A new, end-of-the-day event will offer guests a different kind of fun after dark. As the sun goes down, the ocean will come to life with bioluminescent lighting, music and pathway entertainment.
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