When Did Theme Parks Become Mixologists?

When SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE: SEAS  ) opens its new penguin-themed Antartica attraction in Orlando on Friday, it won't leave park guests thirsty.

The theme park operator is teaming up with Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) in introducing Vanilla South Pole Chill -- a vanilla-infused carbonated beverage -- that will only be available at the Freestyle self-serve fountains inside SeaWorld Orlando.

We've got a trend, folks. Every time a major theme park attraction is added in Orlando, it seems to be accompanied by an exclusive beverage.

  • Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSK  ) Islands of Adventure started the trend two years ago, introducing the wildly popular Butterbeer when its Harry Potter attraction opened. The beverage is essentially a butterscotch sweetened cream soda that is available chilled or frozen.
  • When Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) opened its New Fantasyland expansion late last year, it did so with LeFou's Brew, a proprietary frozen apple juice concoction with passion fruit. It's only available in Gaston's Tavern inside the new attraction.
  • Comcast introduced Energon -- an orange-flavored energy drink -- when it opened Transformers at Universal Studios in California last year. The Florida park will get Energon when its Transformers ride opens next month.

Regional amusement park operators haven't been as ambitious, but isn't it just a matter of time? Building unique attractions have always created unique merchandising opportunities, but now there's a way to derive incremental revenue through signature beverages.

We live in the golden age where everyone's a mixologist. Why not spin the flavor wheel to create something distinctive, especially if you can get a beverage giant to play along?

Butterbeer has developed cult-like devotion, and the other beverages may stick in time. The exclusivity may not result in increased attendance. Would someone really pay $80 to visit a theme park just for a beverage that they can only get there? No. However, it definitely adds to the mystique of the experience, and that can only be a good thing.

Photo: Rick Munarriz. LeFou's Brew at Walt Disney World.

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