With an eyepatch covering his right eye, which was lost to cancer, these days George Millay looks like a pirate and a professional all in one, ruling the water world with his innovations and theme parks.
At 75, the white-haired “father of the waterpark industry” still powers along with a senior citizen pass to his parks and an entrepreneurial spirit that never stops.
It was that spirit that led him to develop his first water arena called SeaWorld San Diego in 1964. The next year he introduced Shamu, the whale, to the public, an animal that’s become an icon in its own right. In 1971 he opened California’s Magic Mountain.
But it wasn’t all magic. In 1974, he was fired from SeaWorld, after SeaWorld Florida opened to less than stellar crowds. Meanwhile, Magic Mountain quickly became nicknamed “Tragic Mountain” due to several high-profile accidents.
For Millay, however, the ideas continued to flow. He cashed in some of his SeaWorld shares to start his next big adventure, something that would become known as a waterpark.
In 1977 that idea became reality with the opening of Wet ‘n’ Wild Orlando, the world’s very first waterpark. Mixing playgrounds, amusement park thrills and summer water fun, Wet ‘n’ Wild spawned a worldwide industry that is still growing.
Born in 1929 in San Diego, Millay grew up in parts of California and Hawaii. After attending UCLA and attempting to be a stockbroker, he set foot into entrepreneurship, opening a series of restaurants before breaking new ground with SeaWorld. He married Anne Reul in 1963, and the couple have now been together 41 years. The Millays currently live in San Diego and have three sons and a daughter.