Sky Tower has had various pricing -- in addition to theme-park admission -- over the years. The most recent charges were $4 for guests and $3 for SeaWorld annual passholders. The 400-foot tower was constructed in 1974, one year after the park opened.
"People are looking for better value, more value," he said. "That was one way that we saw as a way to add value to the visit to the SeaWorld park."
The park started the no-charge policy, without publicizing it, a month ago.
The tower features a two-deck, rotating platform that rises 350 feet. It can hold 50 passengers. A recording points out various SeaWorld landmarks, as well as its sister attractions, Aquatica water park and the Discovery Cove resort. Prather says he uses the vantage point weekly to check on the progress of SeaWorld projects, such as TurtleTrek, an attraction scheduled to open this spring.
"You can see most of Orange County and over into Lake County," he says.
The SeaWorld operations team devised plans for slower-attendance days and higher-volume days. On busier days, a reservation system can be instituted. Quick Queue, SeaWorld's additional-charge, front-of-line pass, will include access to Sky Tower, Prather says. The tower operates all day, but it closes under certain weather conditions, including high winds, for safety purposes.
For years, holiday lights were strung from near the top of the tower to form a Christmas-tree shape visible from Interstate 4, but that was abandoned with the addition of the park's Waterfront area.
"We're still looking at options for the future," Prather says.