The Manta attraction at Sea World combines an exhilarating roller coaster experience with a stingray-based aquarium. The attraction includes an aquarium with ten individual exhibit tanks, totaling more than 250,000 gallons of water, a lake with water effects, a duck pond, a flamingo exhibit, a ride photo building, a ride maintenance building, renovation of an existing gift shop, ride debris nets over existing portions of the park, and a roller coaster.

Photo: Wharton-Smith

The coaster simulates the sensation of gliding through the park. It barrels through a near miss with a waterfall and takes riders to within 3 feet of the lake.

Contractor Wharton-Smith of Maitland, Fla., encountered several obstacles. Because the construction site was located in the center of the park, and the perimeter of the site was surrounded by pedestrian walkways, the project team had to adhere to limited access times to the site.

During park operations, the main gate to the site could only be open once a hour for ten minutes. Extra attention was paid at the beginning of the project to plan concrete pours that were more than 100 cu yds. The largest concrete pour was for the main ray tank, which was poured in one 1,200-cu-yd pour.

Due to the corrosive environment of the salt water that would be used in the aquariums, reinforced fiberglass form ties were used in lieu of metal ties. Mock-ups were performed to verify that the ties could be used with the concrete gang form system. The successful use of the form ties helped ensure that the tanks would be leak- and corrosion-free for many years.

The 12-month schedule did not allow for the ride testing to be performed prior to the complete construction of the site. There were areas of the site that were considered dangerous when the coaster was in operation. WSI and SeaWorld worked together to create a plan where work could be performed in the ride-restricted areas during the day, and ride testing could be performed in the afternoon. These areas had to be constantly monitored during the ride-testing phase when construction was still occurring in these areas.

All irrigation, salt water lines, chilled water lines, potable and non-potable lines had to be tied into Sea World’s existing lines seamlessly without any interruption to park operations. Most of this work was done at night, which made scheduling important.

Work was scheduled so as to not interfere with the park’s guests, with the noisiest work performed on off-park hours. The contractor also had to deal with other noise and equipment restrictions so as to not disturb the habitats of the animals. Despite these restrictions, Wharton-Smith was able to complete the project a month ahead of schedule.

Key Facts

Owner: SeaWorld Orlando
Location: Orlando
Cost: $25 million (estimate)
Contractor: Wharton-Smith, Inc.
Design Firm: PGAV Architects