Carl Lum, president of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, is headed to Texas according to an announcement from SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., the amusement park's parent company. The change is part of a wide-ranging shake up of management at SeaWorld's parks which takes effect April 1.
The moves include the departures of the company's chief parks operations officer, chief zoological officer and the San Antonio park director Dan Decker, who Lum succeeds.
The shake up comes as SeaWorld is trying to overhaul its business and boost attendance in the wake of a 2013 documentary that raised questions about the company's treatment of orcas and their interactions with trainers at the company's parks, according to CNBC.
There were reports of four animal deaths at the San Antonio park since last summer, including a 12-year-old dolphin that died two weeks ago.
Lum will be responsible for leading the company's two Texas parks, SeaWorld and Aquatica. He has been with the company since 1999 and has held various roles within the company, including Vice President of Finance for Busch Gardens in Tampa, before being promoted to Busch Gardens Williamsburg park president in 2010.
Lum has been an active and popular member of the greater Williamsburg tourism community, chairing the Williamsburg Area Destination Marketing Committee and serving on the Historic Triangle Collaborative.
Area leaders are sorry to see Lum go.
"Carl is an exceptional leader in his industry and in the destination marketing effort that is so critical to our region," said Mitchell Reiss, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. "That's evidenced by growth at Busch Gardens during his tenure and successes like Colonial Williamsburg's new, first-ever co-branded marketing campaign with Busch Gardens and Water Country USA."
"We are very sad to see Carl Lum leave the destination, as he has been a tremendous leader in tourism and in our community. Busch Gardens and Water Country USA with Carl at the helm have made major contributions to our approach to strategic marketing and product innovation," said Karen Riordan, president of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance. "We will miss his tourism acumen and his friendship. We have no doubt he has been selected by SeaWorld to do great things in San Antonio."
James City County officials were quick to praise Lum's legacy of service during his tenure as President of Busch Gardens.
"It's a great loss for Busch Gardens, Carl Lum has been a great supporter of James City County through my 17 months here," said Bryan Hill, county administrator for James City County. "He's a business partner and a great community leader. I know Carl and Carl will turn that place [the San Antonio park] around, he's done great things in James City County and Busch Gardens is left in a better place due to the fact we've had Carl Lum."
Kevin Onizuk, a member of the James City County Board of Supervisors, stressed Lum's leadership in organizing the greater Williamsburg area, advocating for cooperation between tourism businesses. "Carl is an exceptional leader and has done great things for Busch Gardens and Water Country. The SeaWorld Corporate office is a big fan of his," Onizuk said.
Lum has been famous at the park for his work-ethic, and belief in putting sweat equity into the park. He frequently helps crews put in Christmas trees for the popular ChristmasTown event and will perform other manual labor to get involved at the ground level.
He frequently says "it's about having quality products" when asked what leads to success at the theme park. Lum enjoyed greeting visitors to the park, and many frequenters recognized him as they waited in line for roller coasters or walked to different attractions at the theme park.
Janis Biggerstaff and her husband have been "superfans" of the theme park for years, visiting hundreds of times in the last decade.
"From the moment Carl took over at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, he made it a point to get to know his customers. I rarely visited the park that I didn't see him out and talking to people (and I visit the park a lot)," she said, when contacted by the Gazette on Facebook. "I loved that he was willing to jump in the coaster and ride with us, if his schedule allowed. He always made me feel so welcome at the park - like a guest, I was part of his family. Honestly, I've been crying most of the morning, since I got the news. He will be missed very much by the park fans."
Austin Bogues contributed to this story. Vaughan can be reached at (757)345-2343.