‘Like a ghost town’: Former trainer shares before-after photos of what used to be SeaWorld Ohio

AURORA, Ohio — He grew up visiting it, then later trained its animals, and eventually it even brought him together with his wife.

And ever since SeaWorld closed in 2001, Nico Maragos, 43, has wondered what the park that had so much impact on his life looks like.

This past weekend, he found out.

*To view his photos, swipe through the photo gallery in this story, or click on his Facebook post located at the bottom of this page*

In a post he shared on Facebook Sunday, Maragos said he was given access to the park and took several photos.

“Some scenes will be familiar to this who visited as guests, and some will be familiar only to those who worked behind the scenes,” he said in the post.

Since posting the photos, Maragos said the response has been incredible; it’s gotten over 1,000 shares so far.

“It’s nice seeing others’ comments as we relive our memories of SeaWorld of Ohio, but it also shows how much people miss it,” he said. “It brought families together and most importantly it educated the public.  That’s where I learned to have my love and appreciation for animals.”

Maragos said he worked at SeaWorld from 1993 through 2001. He started his career there as a bird trainer in the Wild Wings Bird Show. In 1997, he began taking care of the dolphins at Dolphin Cove.

He eventually began working as a trainer with the dolphins and sea lions and even performed in the dolphin show during the first season of Six Flags World of Adventure.

Maragos, who now lives in Detroit and works in the hotel industry, said his love for the park started when he was just a child.

“My parents would take me to SeaWorld every year,” he said. “I was so excited I couldn’t sleep the night before.  Since my 1st time visiting the park, I knew I wanted to be a SeaWorld trainer.”

He’s been married to his wife for 18 years — she used to work in the park’s accounting department.

“Even though it was a job with a lot of hard work and cold winters (I worked year-round), it was always a happy place,” he said. “Sometimes my wife would join me and help me with some play-time sessions with the dolphins during her break and other times I would bring some of the birds to her office to sing.  Where else could you do that? ”

He said that through the year’s he would try to look at the park through Google Earth, but “I wanted to walk the pathways once more and relive the greatest memories of my life.”

Unfortunately, he said, visiting the park was depressing.

“A once beautiful marine life park was turned into ruins,” he said. “It was like walking through a ghost town…it was unreal.”

But he also said it brought him closure. He said if there’s one thing he learned from revisiting the park this past weekend it was that SeaWorld was not special because of its buildings.

“Buildings can deteriorate and crumble,” he said. “SeaWorld was special because of the people and the memories that made it special and that can’t be taken away.”