Rosenberg Treasure of the Month
During the month of June, the Rosenberg Library Museum will display memorabilia from Sea-Arama Marineworld, a very popular topic.
Sea-Arama Marineworld was a marine animal park that opened in Galveston on November 7, 1965. This park was open for 25 years offering year-round entertainment which increased tourism and extended the tourist season beyond the summer. It was one of the most popular tourist attraction across the Southwest because of its unique approach to theme parks.
A New Venture
Like many places in Galveston, Sea-Arama was a place of firsts. It was one of the nation’s first ocean-themed parks, was the first on the gulf coast, and was the first to offer three different locations: the oceanarium, the aquarium, and the aqua-amphitheater. Sea-Arama was also the first to have a porpoise show pool: lined with glass panels, it gave the audience a chance to observe the animals during feedings and shows. The park was located on 25 acres of land at 91st and Seawall, holding a 50 foot deep, 200,000 gallon aquarium as well as a man-made lake.
The Animals and Shows
The animals at Sea-Arama were the heart of the shows. The oceanarium showed exotic fish for people to view and learn about. There were even piranha! The aqua-amphitheater held shows with dolphins, porpoises, killer whales, and sea lions. Throughout the years, additional animals were added including sea otters, sharks, alligators, turtles, snakes, birds, and bears. There were shows for alligator wrestling, bear tricks, and snakes. The snake show ended with the famous “Kiss of Death” – when a handler kissed the hood of an angry cobra.
In addition to the animal entertainment, Sea Arama held water ski shows with skiers doing tricks and comedy bits, puppet shows, and costumed mascots such as Cap’n Sharkey. Also available were tropical gardens, a petting zoo with kangaroos, goats, deer, sheep, and rabbits, an Oleander Garden designed in cooperation with the National Oleander Society, Alligator Island, Jean Lafitte’s Raft Ride, gift and food shops, dining areas, and even a water toboggan slide! Before they closed, there were talks about expanding to offer amusement park rides.
Sea-Arama created an Educational Services Department which oversaw the school groups, senior groups, and church groups that came for field trips. This department provided information and pamphlets for the visitors. Briefly during the 1970s, the educational department gave behind the scenes tours to elementary children, but due to its overwhelming popularity, the tours were replaced with a different educational program. First Sea-Arama educators tried visiting schools to teach about the animals, but this too was overwhelming. In the end, they created a slideshow that schools could borrow as a teaching tool.
Alongside education, Sea-Arama was also involved with research programs. These programs included a local nesting area for the brown pelican, studying the Ridley sea turtles, and rescue and rehabilitation programs. Sea-Arama partnered with Texas A&M University at Galveston, Texas Fish and Wildlife Department, the University of Texas, and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The park also had a special partnership with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network. In 1983, TMMSN appointed Sea-Arama as the rescue center for stranded, sick, and injured marine mammals. TMMSN worked well with the park’s staff and trainers to save any animal in need.
|Sea-Arama Vertical Files||Courtesy of the Rosenberg Library and Museum|
|Complete set of Sea-Arama MarineWorld Galveston Souvenir Playing Cards. The cards are still sealed in their original packaging from the manufacturer, and are still in the original box with the MarineWorld price tag. The cards were made in Hong Kong.||Courtesy of the Rosenberg Library and Museum|
The End Is Near
In 1988, Marineworld was the number one tourist attraction in Galveston, but this wouldn’t last. Due in part to the opening of SeaWorld in San Antonio, which was much larger and flashier, Sea-Arama Marineworld attendance began to decrease while costs rose. In addition to the new competition, the marine park was showing signs of disrepair that the owners didn’t address, making it harder to attract tourists.
In June 1989, Sea-Arama announced that the needed improvements were coming, but things were looking grim. In December of the same year, city leaders held a meeting in attempts to keep Sea-Arama running. There were even discussions of Texas A&M Galveston taking over the facility. However, all announcements and discussions fell through, and Sea-Arama Marineworld closed after its final show on January 14, 1990. Following the closure, the animals were sold to various parks and zoos across the United States.
|T-Shirt that reads Sea-Arama Marineworld / Galveston Island||Courtesy of the Rosenberg Library and Museum|
A Lasting Legacy
After Sea-Arama closed, the attraction was left abandoned and finally demolished in 2006. Prior to its demolition, people liked to explore the area and take pictures of the once fantastic theme park. Sea-Arama was innovative for its time, and both guests and employees continue to have happy memories of it to this day.
The Treasure of the Month is located on the library’s historic second floor near the East Entrance. It can be viewed during regular library hours, 9:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9:00 a.m. – 8:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, please contact Ivy Albright, Museum Curator at 409.763.8854 Ext. 125 or at email@example.com.