The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is keen to make more of its unique location as part of an ambitious $10 million expansion and renovation project.
Surrounded by protected wetlands and coastline, the venue is considering building up instead of out.
The intention would be to create an observational element where visitors can enjoy the natural wonders that are literally on the aquarium’s doorstep. This could include watching the native birdlife of the Cape Fear region including ospreys, pelicans and ibis.
According to the aquarium’s director, Peggy Sloan, an upgrade is long overdue.
Built in 1976, the last major works to the site were carried out 15 years ago when the venue tripled in size with the addition of the conservatory and Cape Fear Shoals.
Priorities for Sloan include improved way-finding and the modernisation of existing exhibits. Funding will be sought from the state, private donations and sponsorship. There is also likely to be a rise in ticket prices once the project is completed.
A key element that drove visitor numbers last year was new programming. Last summer’s return of the outdoor butterfly exhibit and the year-long animatronic dinosaur exhibit boosted attendance to 466,305 in 2016. This marked the facility’s highest attendance in a decade.