Is Busch Gardens About To Be Sold To The Owners Of Legoland?

Merlin Entertainments, owner of Legoland, is interested in buying Busch Gardens from its troubled parent company, SeaWorld Entertainment.

Merlin’s chief financial officer disclosed the interest during a conference call with analysts Monday. SeaWorld — which owns 12 theme parks and water parks, including the original Busch Gardens in Tampa and a second Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. — released second-quarter results Tuesday morning that showed a $175.9 million loss.

SeaWorld has struggled with plunging profits after the damaging documentary “Blackfish” came out in 2013 and public sentiment shifted against the company’s handling of killer whales. Despite planning to phase out the breeding and showing of killer whales, attendance continues to decline. It has tried to shift its focus to rides and announced an end to its orca breeding program. Theatrical performances are being restaged in favor of more nature-based encounters.

Last week SunTrust analyst Michael A. Swartz said that SeaWorld could generate $800 million to $1 billion if it sold off its regional parks such as Busch Gardens.

Meanwhile, Merlin chief financial officer Anne-Francoise Nesmes said during an earnings call Monday it was keeping a close eye on Busch Gardens.

“It takes two parties to do a deal. So we do not know what SeaWorld’s intentions are, but we do believe that those assets (Busch Gardens) are interesting and we could certainly do a lot with them particularly around accommodation. So to us it’s about having the right discussion with a willing partner and making sure we have the right financial return,” Nesmes said.

Merlin, which is based in the United Kingdom, has enjoyed healthy growth in recent years at its eight Legoland theme parks around the world (including LegoLand Florida in Winter Haven) and its other tourist attractions, including Madame Tussauds, the London Eye and the recently opened Orlando Eye. In Monday’s report, Merlin said the number of visitors to its attractions increased by 6.2 percent to 29.7 million with revenue up 19.4 percent to $893 million for the first half of the year.

Recent reports have suggested SeaWorld has hired investment adviser Evercore to find a potential buyer. SeaWorld has so far offered no comment on reports by the Deal Reporter, a financial news service, on the Evercore hiring. Evercore is known as a firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions, restructurings, public offerings and private placements.

In Tuesday’s earnings report, said it lost $2.05 per share. Earnings, adjusted for asset impairment costs, were $1.09 per share.

The results topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 31 cents per share.

The theme park operator posted revenue of $373.8 million in the period, missing Street forecasts. Eight analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $398.4 million.

SeaWorld shares have fallen 28 percent since the beginning of the year. The stock has increased 3 percent in the last 12 months.

Rise of the Synthetic-High Walking Dead: Police Across Florida Called to ‘Horror-Movie Style Scenes’

According to officials, there were three overdoses on Wednesday, as the calls for the usage of Spice are centered around Crest Lake Park where homeless people spend a lot of time reportedly.

A disturbing photo from the Clearwater Police Department taken at Crest Lake Park shows two people slumped over and one person laying on the ground, as it’s suspected they had used Spice.

In addition, a video taken at the same park on Wednesday by Major Eric Gandy of the Clearwater Police Department shows him trying several times to speak to unresponsive individuals about how long ago they had taken spice.

‘What’s your name?’ Gandy can be heard asking several times on the video.

Eventually, one of the men responds by saying, ‘my name?’

‘The spike that we’re seeing and my personnel are dealing with on the road are unprecedented,’ Gandy told WFLA. ‘Looked like one of our zombie movies.’

He added that he ‘had 15 people walking around in various states of incapacitation’.

Resident Jerome Freeland, 29, told Mail Online that he walks by Crest Lake Park daily when he takes his dog for a walk or heads to the welding and fabricating business he owns.

‘It’s mainly the homeless people that are using this drug,’ Freeland claims, as he believes they are using something stronger than spice called ‘That Disney’ or ‘FloKKA’.

‘They go buy this drug with money that people give them and then go sit around our parks and other places.

‘They are zombified homeless people on drugs and I’ve seen people fall out around my place from the usage of it.’

Freeland added that business owners around him constantly go out to provide water to people who appear to be on spice, ‘so they won’t get too sick and die.’

He explained that he’s witnessed people who have used the drug in the area become ‘violent’ and attack others.

Freeland’s account of violent behavior exhibited by spice users coincides with what investigators say is happening.

According to WTVT, officers have encountered violent individuals, as well as those having convulsions and several who are just completely unresponsive.

‘We have noticed a serious uptick of Spice incidents lately that have turned into medical calls and it’s become a serious drain on resources for the police department for the fire department and then in turn for doctors say at Morton Plant Hospital where the patients end up,’ police spokesman Rob Shaw told WTVT.

‘You wonder when somebody’s going to have a heart attack and die from some of these substances.’

The St. Petersburg Police Department said dispatchers answered several calls for individuals needing medical assistance as it’s suspected they may have had extreme reactions to spice in the last few days.

Officers in that area suspect that people near the St. Vincent DePaul Shelter were using it, but are conducting lab tests to confirm.

Police say the people who are making the synthetic drug are changing the ingredients, which means that users have no idea what they are smoking.

Authorities say they are trying to find a solution to the increase of spice-related cases, as they are teaming up to work on a solution to fix the problem.

Garth Brooks Cancels Tampa Tour Dates Due To Stanley Cup Final

Country music megastar Garth Brooks announced the cancellation of a series of concerts on his comeback world tour that were slated to take place in Tampa, Florida due to the Tampa Bay Lightning earning a spot in the championship series of the Stanley Cup Final.

Brooks announced on his website that the cancellation came after working closely with the Tampa Bay Lightning personnel and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in exhausting all possibly workable scenarios that would have allowed for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final and Brooks’ concerts take place.

“First of all, we would all like to congratulate the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks for reaching the Stanley Cup Final. As we now know, Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final is being played on Saturday, June 6th. All parties looked into moving Saturday’s two Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood shows to Sunday. The issue of getting the network crews and their gear out of the building and getting our crews and gear into the building late Saturday/early Sunday for two shows on Sunday raises serious safety concerns. It is because of those safety concerns that the choice is being made to refund all shows and reschedule depending on finding a date that works for both the arena and the tour.”

“This was a hard decision for everyone. We would like to thank Elmer Straub at Amalie Arena and Tod Leiweke with the Tampa Bay Lightning for working around the clock for the last 48 hours to find a remedy for the situation. We personally know Gary Bettman and are very familiar with the League and its players, coaches, and staff…they are all stand-up people. We are convinced everything that could have been done was done to try to remedy the situation. Congrats again to the City of Tampa, good luck, and we will be watching the series!!!”

Brooks’ website goes on to state that customers who purchased their tickets through Ticketmaster online or by phone will automatically be refunded, while those who purchased their tickets at an outlet location will be able to receive refunds at the point of sale beginning Monday. Brooks fans who purchased their tickets through the McDonald’s Ticket Office at Amalie Arena or through the Amalie Arena Sales Office are being advised to contact their sales rep or visit the box office during normal business hours for full refunds.

The concerts were set to be the first for Brooks since 1998. Brooks retired from the music business soon after to concentrate on raising his children. During Brooks’ hiatus, Brooks kept a toe in the music industry, releasing box sets of his studio albums and concert DVD’s and performing a series of limited engagement dates at the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas. With his oldest daughter having graduated high school and entering college, Brooks announced his return to country music with the release of his first album of new music, Man Against Machine, in November and quickly announced a long awaited return to touring.

Brooks’ announcement also stated that his camp would work with the Amalie Arena to try to reschedule the tour dates, providing dates become available that work within Brooks’ availability and further tour commitments.

 

These 13 Florida Day Trips Will Definitely Make Your Day

If you’re desperately in need of a vacation but only have a weekend, these awesome day trips are a great substitute.