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The Victor Black Collection - Seven Seas Marine Life Park, Part I (1973)

Victor Black

Silent | 1973

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  •  Trained dolphins perform synchronized tricks and maneuvers 
  •  Fishing in a small pond 
 
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In this home movie from 1973, the Black family visits the Seven Seas Marine Life Park in Arlington, posing in front of the pirate ship Bona Venture and taking in a dolphin show. Also included is footage of the family fishing.
Modeled after Sea World in San Diego, the Seven Seas Marine Life Park featured animal shows, a boat ride, a pirate ship, and other attractions. Established by Tom Vandergriff, the park was originally intended to partner with Six Flags Over Texas, with the City of Arlington financing the building of the park and Six Flags experts heading up its design, construction, and operation. After breaking ground in 1970, however, Six Flags pulled out of the Seven Seas project. The City of Arlington thus decided to launch the park on its own, forming the Arlington Park Corporation. 
 
With the change of plans and a series of construction strikes, Seven Seas was forced to delay its opening until the summer of 1972. However, animals and staff had already been respectively purchased and hired, making the winter of 1971-1972 an expensive endeavor. When the park finally opened in 1972, the cost had reached $10 million, $2.5 million over budget. 
 
While attendance was high its first season, Seven Seas remained in the red. With each successive season, attendance fell and losses grew. After the 1974 season, Sea World founder George Millay took an interest in the park, offering to manage Seven Seas in 1975 if Arlington officials sold him the park’s animals. The city agreed. Millay spent half a million dollars on refurbishment, launched an image-building advertising campaign, and even incorporated non-sea life attractions such as circus acts in an attempt to boost the gate. Despite these efforts, the 1975 season garnered its lowest attendance yet. Accepting that there was no way to make up for all the money the park had already lost, Millay decided that the 1975 season would be Seven Seas’ last. 
 
Arlington signed a contract with J&L Enterprises to operate the property. Renamed Hawaii Kai, the park featured a troupe of Hawaiians along with several dolphins and sea lions. Attendance reached an all-time low, and by the end of the season, J&L’s Arlington enterprise was bankrupt. Millay petitioned the City of Arlington to allow him to convert the property into a customer participation park called Wet ‘n’ Wild, but the city rejected the plan (Millay eventually opened his prototype in Orlando). Instead, Arlington officials voted to close the park.
 
For several years, the property remained vacant, costing the city $1 million a year. Now the site is the location of the Sheraton Arlington Hotel, with several buildings on the property dating back to the park.