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Sea Life Park sold
A Mexican company buys
Dolphin Discovery, which purchased the once-struggling property from New York investor Christian Wolffer, said it plans to upgrade and expand the popular marine life attraction near Makapuu Point.
"We will commit a significant amount of resources to improving and upgrading the facilities at Sea Life Park over the next several years with the expectation that the park will once again be one of the most important attractions on Oahu and a worldwide research center for marine life," said Eduardo Albor, president and chief executive of Dolphin Discovery.
The company also committed to maintaining or increasing staffing levels at Sea Life Park.
The park, which opened in 1964, fell upon hard times during a tourism slump in the 1990s. Its owner at the time, Attractions Hawaii, failed to pay back Bank of Hawaii for the loan it took out to improve the park and another property, Waimea Falls Adventure Park, and the bank foreclosed. Wolffer bought both parks in 1996, then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2001. Waimea Falls Park was purchased by the city in 2002, and is now managed by the Audubon Society.
Sea Life Park offers viewing and encounters with marine life, including dolphins and stingrays.
The purchase also will give two Dolphin Discovery investors who have Hawaii ties a reason to come home.
Miguel Pali Quintana, a principal of Dolphin Discovery, often visited Sea Life Park and dreamed of one day owning it, he said.
Quintana lives in Mexico, but is of Hawaiian ancestry and his family ties bring him frequently to Hawaii. He is best known as the owner, developer and designer of Xcaret ecological water park in Cancun, Mexico.
The deal will also bring Renato Lenzi, another principal investor, back to Hawaii to serve as general manager of the park. Lenzi previously worked in Hawaii from 1998 to 2001 at Dolphin Quest at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island.