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SeaWorld, Busch Gardens in Tampa hit with layoffs

The entrance to SeaWorld, in Orlando, Fla. in 2017. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
The entrance to SeaWorld, in Orlando, Fla. in 2017. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Published Apr. 16, 2019

The staffs of SeaWorld Entertainment's theme parks, which includes Busch Gardens in Tampa, were hit with news of a round of layoffs this week as part of a restructuring and "efficiency" plan to shore up the company's finances.

Attendance and earnings have been rising recently at SeaWorld Entertainment, but on Tuesday the company announced it would eliminate jobs, including some at Busch Gardens in Tampa. The company declined to say in what departments the cuts would be made, or how many cuts would be made.

"Like most companies, we regularly evaluate operations to ensure we are properly organized for performance and efficiency," read a statement from Busch Gardens Tampa Tuesday. "As part of those ongoing efforts, SeaWorld Entertainment has eliminated a limited number of positions, including some positions at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. We remain committed to our conservation, education and rescue mission."

RELATED: Facing identity crisis, can SeaWorld rebuild?

SeaWorld has gone through this before. In August of 2018 it cut jobs and "implemented a company-wide restructuring program to better position it for continued growth and financial success."

Employees affected by this layoff will be offered severance benefits and transition assistance, the statement said.

The announcement came shortly after SeaWorld released its quarterly earnings, which celebrated an increase in attendance and revenue.

SeaWorld in Orlando had been losing customers since Universal Orlando opened its Harry Potter-themed land in 2010, setting blockbuster attendance records. Then the 2013 documentary Blackfish raised questions about the SeaWorld's treatment of its killer whales and their trainers.

The company has 12 theme parks across the country, four of them in Florida including SeaWorld Orlando and sister Aquatica water park as well as Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island water park.

In February, Gustavo "Gus" Antorcha, a former Carnival Cruise Lines executive, took over as CEO and was lauded as an outsider who could bring a fresh perspective to SeaWorld.

Under former CEO Joel Manby, the park announced in 2016 it was ending its orca breeding program and theatrical shows were to be replaced by more "educational" shows.

Financial reports in 2018 seemed to show the tide was turning. For the first time in five years, SeaWorld, which operates 12 parks across the country, showed growth in sales and attendance, and the stock nearly doubled.

PREVIOUSLY: First look: SeaWorld opens new Sesame Street land.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect number of layoffs. The story has been updated.

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