SeaWorld’s water park Aquatica opens Ray Rush slide propelled by water jets

Published May 14
Updated May 16

SeaWorld’s promise to add new rides instead of animal entertainers is building steam as a new ride has opened in the company’s Aquatica waterpark in Orlando.

Ray Rush, a new slide with an open air half-pipe that resembles a manta ray, opened a day earlier than expected on Friday. It’s the first in Florida to combine enclosed tube sections, a giant sphere and a drop into an open-air halfpipe, according to SeaWorld.

Ray Rush is a 60-foot-tall, four-person raft slide that includes water jet launches. The height requirement is 42 inches. Ray Rush encompasses three slide elements in rafts that seat up to four riders. First, riders will be launched with powerful water jets designed to propel the rafts into the first of several enclosed tube sections. Next, riders enter a giant translucent sphere, rocking back and forth as waves of water swirl around them. Finally, riders will drop into the attraction’s signature element, an open-air half pipe that resembles the shape of a manta ray.

"The combination of these three unique slide elements seamlessly blended into one attraction creates a ride experience that is both thrilling and family-friendly," said David Heaton, Aquatica Orlando vice president. "It’s the perfect addition to our slide portfolio."

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Infinity Falls, another a water ride featuring a 42-foot drop and rushing rapids is slated to open this summer at SeaWorld Orlando. There are also plans to open a Sesame Street land in Orlando by spring 2019.

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SeaWorld Entertainment, the parent company that also owns Busch Gardens, has had a four-year attendance slide, slumping revenues and management shakeups with two CEOs leaving in the last three years. But the company’s quarterly earnings report last week brought some good news. Attendance, annual pass sales, revenue and in-park spending all increased in the first quarter even though the company posted a $62.8 million net loss.

John T. Reilly, the new interim CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, touted an aggressive plan to build a new ride or attraction in every park each year and to run more efficiently.

PREVIOUSLY: Facing identity crisis and slumping profics, can SeaWorld rebuild?

Previous CEO Joel Manby attempted to combat criticism from the documentary Blackfish by announcing two years ago that all SeaWorld-branded parks would ban captive breeding of orcas and also phase out the theatrical Shamu shows. But the financial bleeding continued.

The company not only faces lingering criticism that arose from the searing 2013 documentary critical of the treatment of its captive killer whales, but it also faces fierce competition from Disney and Universal.

For tickets and information, see a quaticaorlando.com.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

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