If you grew up in Ohio in the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s, there is a decent chance that you went to SeaWorld at least once.
My love of the ocean started when I was six years old, even though I wouldn’t step foot in one until nearly a decade later. Through the years, I developed a deep sense of connectivity to the ocean and all things living in it.
And even though I wanted nothing more than to see animals in the wild, open ocean, having a marine park in the middle of the Midwest was the next best thing. No matter how I feel about ocean animals in captivity as an adult, I can’t deny that childhood Chelsea was just excited to have a little bit of the ocean here in Ohio.
SeaWorld Ohio opened in the spring of 1970 and quickly became a popular family destination. After a three-decade run, the park closed in the early 2000s. It may be gone, but the memories of summer trips to Geauga Lake are still all too real for many Ohioans.
If you’re wondering what the old park looks like now, you’re not alone and you may be surprised. But before we get to today, we need to go back in time.
Abandoned For Nearly 20 Years
Former SeaWorld employee Nico Maragos had the opportunity to go inside the old SeaWorld to take photos of the park about five years ago. The results definitely inspired huge waves of childhood nostalgia and an uncontrollable longing for warmer weather and simpler times.
Sea Lion and Seal Pool & Intensity Water Ski Spectacular
Shamu’s Happy Harbor and Dolphin Cove
For several years after those photos were taken, the park continued to slowly fade away into nature. In February of 2021, an urban explorer on Youtube was able to document the parks condition before demolition began.
The Transition into Geauga Lake District
In 2020, a Solon, OH-based real estate developer, Industrial Commercial Properties, bought a massive chunk of the property with the intention to transform it into a 377 mixed-use development called the Geauga Lake District.
Last month, the demolition began on the property, with excavators tearing down the remaining structures. The new development will include apartments, condos, single-family homes, and retail businesses.
In an interview with News 5 Cleveland in June, Austin Semarjian, Vice President of leasing and acquisitions at ICP explained that the development plans to lean into the more nostalgic elements of the property.
“I want to make sure people know the Geauga Lake nostalgia, we’re going to try to build toward that,” he said. “It’s not going to be roller coasters but you’re going to see bits and pieces of history throughout this development.”
The development will also have an abundance of natural spaces. Half of the land will remain undeveloped, featuring walking trails, parks, and woodlands.
While the parks will still hold a special place in the hearts of many Ohioans, the development of the area is a welcome relief. Seeing the area come to life again is so much better than watching our childhood memories decay.