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Sea-Arama Marineworld

Long before San Antonians filled the splash zone at Shamu Stadium, Texans were crowding the benches at Galveston's immensely popular Sea-Arama Marineworld. An exciting aquatic adventure with an equally exciting and aquatic name, it made a big impact as one of the earliest marine parks of its kind.

Featuring sea lions, dolphins, the occasional orca and reportedly even alligator wrestling, it remained a favorite among Galveston's tourist attractions for years. Located just yards from the shoreline, Sea-Arama provided families oceanic amusement without ever having to actually reach the ocean.

Long before San Antonians filled the splash zone at Shamu Stadium, Texans were crowding the benches at Galveston's immensely popular Sea-Arama Marineworld. An exciting aquatic adventure with an equally exciting and aquatic name, it made a big impact as one of the earliest marine parks of its kind.

Featuring sea lions, performing dolphins, the occasional orca and reportedly even a touch of alligator wrestling, it remained a favorite among Galveston's tourist attractions for years. Located just yards from the shoreline, Sea-Arama provided families oceanic amusement without ever having to actually reach the ocean.

Sadly, by the late 1980s the park had begun to suffer a crippling loss in attendance. As other, more flashy parks arrived on the scene, Sea-Arama's owners had trouble keeping things afloat. After 25 years, the park was going belly-up. Though Sea-Arama entertained more than 6 million people in its lifetime, a mere 300 turned out for what would be its final performance. Much to the delight of animal activists, who were quick to cite the two orcas and 11 dolphins that perished at the park, a part of Texas travel history closed its doors in 1990. After the aquariums were drained and the animals dispersed to other locations––though probably not in that order – the property went up for sale.

Early on, Texas A&M University expressed interest in converting the site into a research facility, but nothing came of it. There was also talk of creating an upscale RV park, but that too fell through. So, the aquarium remained where it was, unused.

Long abandoned, the buildings' walls are cracked and its tanks overgrown with algae. The once-impressive modernist facade has turned into a decaying hazard, while other structures have succumbed to gravity completely. Peeling and crumbling, Sea-Arama has become Galveston's version of the Roman Colosseum––though, of course, without the stigma of all those dead Christians.

What will eventually befall the relic has yet to be determined. There have been reports concerning the development of a new water park, but no one's offering specifics. For now, all we have to go on is what the graffiti tells us: that "J.H." is running the place and it will, until a purchase is made, continue to serve as "Stoner Land."

Weird Texas

 

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