SeaWorld CFO departing after one year on the job

Posted Friday, May 13, 2022 10:07 AM | Contributed by Jeff

SeaWorld Entertainment chief financial officer Elizabeth Castro Gulacsy is stepping down this year, the company has announced. ​​Gulacsy will leave the position on Dec. 31 or earlier if the company finds her replacement. She was named CFO in May 2021.

Read more from Spectrum 13/Central Florida.

Friday, May 13, 2022 10:08 AM
Jeff's avatar

The revolving door continues. I don't believe for a minute the part in the press release about respecting the board.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Friday, May 13, 2022 11:06 AM

Six Flags has 2 people left on their leadership team... check their website.... the CEO and VP of investor relations. Never seen anything like that for a $1.5 billion company. SIX had to delay their public Q1 release by 1.5 weeks presumably because they have bare bones finance team - CFO left in April. I read through the Q1 earnings call transcript. Sounds like the new CEO is micromanaging the **** out of that company - zero parks experience and seemingly single-handed running all of the parks himself.

The mess that is SEAS and SIX leadership, makes you thankful for the stability at FUN even with some of their missteps

Friday, May 13, 2022 4:12 PM

It makes me even happier that we don't have to worry about either chain taking over Cedar Fair. With SEAS these days giving an in park experience that is reminiscent of mid 2000s Six Flags, I cringe to think of what would have happened to parks like Cedar Point, Carowinds or Kings Island had SEAS or SIX bought out Cedar Fair.

Friday, May 13, 2022 5:21 PM

Looks like Palace found their new CFO!

Saturday, May 14, 2022 1:56 AM

10ish years ago Busch Gardens Williamsburg was the shining example of how to operate a theme park. Now it’s a shining example of how to reduce the guest experience through a long series of penny pinching budget cuts. We’re all of the SEAS parks once well run and now completely mediocre like BGW?

Cedar Fair is not a theme park saint I have been burnt by their “weather” closures multiple times after traveling long distances (They closed because of low attendance, not weather)

Saturday, May 14, 2022 10:24 AM

All of the SEAS parks used to be fantastic examples of how to operate a great park. If anything, Busch Williamsburg held onto its good operations the longest. Busch Tampa has been on a downhill slide for at least a decade.

Sunday, May 15, 2022 8:36 AM

BGW as of a few weeks ago was perfectly fine. Plenty of staff, everything was open and running maximum trains, super clean and overall an amazing experience all three days we visited.

Likewise with Sea World San Antonio. I never once even thought of the guest experience or ride operations being lackluster.

Shrug. Maybe it's that Florida swamp ass season that affects SWO/BGT to run a bit worse :P

Sunday, May 15, 2022 9:44 AM

BGW was fine when I visited in 2019. They even had all of the good Busch Gardens food options that BGT has eliminated over the years.

Swamp ass season is right around the corner. Perhaps you're onto something

Sunday, May 15, 2022 11:59 AM

I’m sure the park experience Just fine by today’s lower standards. But Comparing it to about 10 years ago: This is my most recent experience

Hours are shorter. They used to operate all summer until 10. Now it’s 8 or 9 mist nights.

Closed attractions without replacement. DarKastle and the motion simulation. Now the flying carpet.

The live entertainment schedule used to have at least 4 or 5 full production shows. Now it’s one and some small acts.

The full park doesn’t open until an hour plus after the advertised park opening. It’s even gated off. It’s very frustrating to arrive at the advertised opening and being limited to even walk around between a small part of the park.

Late openings of the transportation rides Even after the park has fully opened

Multiple dining locations are totally close or open late/close early. They sell a dining pass that actually can only be used limited hours.

Not running ttams from the further parking lots.

No theming on new attractions.

If one only goes for the roller coasters then they probably haven’t noticed any of the stuff. I like more than coasters and tend should I try to have the experiences that I want because of the things that have been eliminated or are sitting closed

Agreed that each item is small, but that’s what I mean from penny pinching. Over time they add up to the guest experience. If any of this has recently changed that’s great

I am sure the parts are ok but they used to be absolutely flawless about 10 years ago It just disappointing when something that was great takes a downgrade

Sunday, May 15, 2022 12:56 PM

Those issues are what most every park is experiencing these days, though, and BGW was far less affected in our experience than many others as of late.

BGW had one of the best experiences we have had at a park (not just coasters) in many years. We also don't just go for the coasters alone, but the entire park experience. We spent much of our time just hanging out, catching shows, grabbing a few beers, people watching, checking out all the shops and taking in the park in it's entirety. There was not a single annoyance or issue on any day, except maybe the lengthy wait at the toll booth to get into the park near open (same issue at Dominion, too...)

It was well staffed, all the shops were open and the place was immaculate. Beautifully landscaped. Not a single ride broke down in the three days we were there. Rides all ran multiple trains. Food was really good/fresh. Rides opened on time at open, no delays.

Compare to say, Dominion, that opened late (roped off areas for 30+ minutes) and after we did the coasters there was nothing else to do, so we left after 3 hours and went back to BGW. It was night/day difference.

I just didn't get the vibe you laid out, at all, from our three days at the park. It was easily the best well-rounded experience compared to any other park we have visited this year (SFMM, Knotts, SWSD, SWSA, SFFT, Dominion, CP, Hershey). Knotts being the worst of the bunch from the admission, to crews/staffing, etc... Cedar Point on Friday was riddled with downtime and closures, shops closed, etc... Huge night/day to the SEAS properties visited.

All parks are making compromises lately due to staffing/COVID/etc... At the end of the day, I feel like all the Sea World / Busch parks we have visited recently have done a fantastic job considering, compared to other chains.

Last edited by SteveWoA, Sunday, May 15, 2022 12:57 PM
Sunday, May 15, 2022 4:11 PM

I'll throw in my two cents here having gone to BGW, BGT, and SWO this year.

BGW seems to be holding up the best. Last year was a disaster due to staffing, but they seemed to recover nicely when I visited this spring. The park still looks good, the rides are running well, and the food is still well above average in terms of quality and selection. I've been going to BGW yearly for a while now so I'd notice if they took a plunge.

I hadn't been to BGT since 2007 (it was the last day that Shiekra ran with a floor) so my expectations were based on that of its Williamsburg sibling. Everything was running except, to my disappointment, Falcon's Fury (I heard it was struck by lightning). The biggest shocker to my friend and I was the quality and selection of food -- or lack thereof, to be more accurate. Aside from BBQ, there was absolutely nothing of note here... chicken tenders, fries, burgers. (Oh, and an awful attempt at Asian in the food court.) I know that the "Africa" theme of the park doesn't lend itself to food like BGW, but how do they not even have fresh cut fries with toppings? I didn't try anything from the Food & Wine Festival, but the report I got from my foodie friend was that Bites and Pints at Kennywood was better.

I had high hopes for Sea World based on a prior visit many years ago, but the place weirded me out. There are parts of the good old days, the Manby era (which felt like an attempt to recapture the former spirit of the park without succeeding), and the current era in which rides are just plopped down without even a hint of theming. The result is a park layout that lacks coherence or even sense -- for example, to get to the Manatee underwater viewing, you follow the signs for Turtle Trek, of which when you get to the the Turtle portion it's a door with a "closed" sign on it. The food wasn't great by any means, but the selection was better than that of BGT, and the offerings at their food festival were a step up as well.

Edit: I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the shows at SWO. We all know that the company made the decision to emphasize education and rescue in the wake of Blackfish, but my god did they zap all of the fun out of the park. Sea Lion High is now the impeccably accurate and incredibly unimaginative "Sea Lion & Otter Spotlight." Shamu is now "Orca Encounter." The sea lion show did have some entertainment value, but the Orca show was 17 minutes of the park trying to convince us that making the animals splash their fins and jump out of the water is good for their well-being.

I know that Blackfish was a black eye for the chain, but their response was an exercise in PR overreaction. I forgot about the documentary years ago, but now when I visit their parks, between the "rescue" messaging every 5 feet and the dumbed down shows I'm reminded of how badly they cut off their knees trying to solve for a short term image problem.

Last edited by PhantomTails, Sunday, May 15, 2022 4:22 PM
Sunday, May 15, 2022 8:59 PM
Fun's avatar

There is a tendency on here to discount other's experiences at a park/ride/event because they don't align with your own personal experience. This hobby is mostly subjective anyway and we enjoy debating how everyone else is wrong. I think the key here is to consider consistency. It is possible, for two people to visit the same park on the exact same day and come away with very different opinions because their experiences were different. I am certain that rides did go down during Steve's visit to BGW- just not the ones he was in front of at the time. A place he walked past that was well maintained could have been littered just a few minutes earlier until someone swept it clean. Just because one area/stand/store was open doesn't mean everything was open the whole day. You get the idea.

I think if we are consistently reading about people's disappointment with Sea World operations, there's probably something to it, even if there are some outliers. It doesn't mean anyone is wrong.

Sunday, May 15, 2022 11:51 PM
Jeff's avatar

Yeah, I would say that any one account is an anecdote, but many similar accounts are a trend.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Monday, May 16, 2022 12:49 AM

Jeff said:

The revolving door continues. I don't believe for a minute the part in the press release about respecting the board.

That's exactly what you put in your goodbye when you're telling the world, Good Lord what a bunch of micromanaging nitwits, but you want to maintain your stature within the Private Equity community.

But we ALL know what you meant dearie.

Yesterday, 3:22 PM
janfrederick's avatar

super7* said:

Cedar Fair is not a theme park saint I have been burnt by their “weather” closures multiple times after traveling long distances (They closed because of low attendance, not weather)

Did you punch the moose in the nose? Sorry, couldn't resist. ;)

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
Yesterday, 10:05 PM

I've been burned at Cedar Point not because they close early for bad weather, but because they nonsensically close all the coasters except the B&Ms (and take those to one train) for the shortest, lightest rain shower. Outside of that I feel like the Cedar Fair parks are the most likely parks (outside of Orlando parks) to stay open in spite of bad weather.


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