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$130 Million Easton Aquarium Project Can Work

tennessee aquarium buildings

The city of Easton and The Da Vinci Science Center in Pennsylvania are considering potential sites for a new aquarium. One of these is Chattanooga. But downtown Chattanooga already has the Tennessee Aquarium reports WFMZ-TV.

The Tennessee Aquarium comprises two separate buildings. The River Journey takes visitors on the journey of a raindrop, right from from the Appalachian forest down to the Gulf of Mexico. It opened in 1992.

The other is Ocean Journey which opened in 2005. This is a 60, 000 square foot structure equivalent in height to a ten-story building. It includes penguins, sharks and a butterfly area.

The Aquarium, which has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1993, houses over 12, 000 animals and 800 species.

Tennessee Aquarium

Cindy Todd, chief marketing and branding officer at the Tennessee Aquarium said,  “We were built with all private money. The state invested in the plaza around the aquarium about $10 million, and then $45 million was what it cost 25 years ago.”

 In its first year, attendance was in the region of 650, 000. The aquarium’s attendance then grew over the years to 1.4 million visitors. However, after other aquariums opened

in Gatlinburg and Atlanta, Georgia this reduced the Tennessee Aquarium’s visitor base by 25%. Current attendance is around 750, 000.

“Aquariums are very, very expensive to operate, ” she says. “You do have to plan to have changing exhibits to keep the experience fresh and new.”

Todd cautions that Easton, looking to move into the aquarium business, should go in “eyes wide open”. In hard economic times locals will be the sustaining force as tourists are less likely to travel.

“I definitely envied my peers at the Georgia Aquarium. When the recession hit they had 8 million people to draw from, ” Todd said. “Where we had our population on about 400, 000.”

So what would make the partnership between the community, Easton and The Da Vinci Center work? Can the $130 million project become a profitable venture?

“You just need to be special and different and give people a reason to get off the couch and come visit you, ” says Todd.

The city of Easton will pay $30 million toward the project, which will purchase the land and contribute towards exhibits.

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Charles Read

Charles is Managing Director at Blooloop. He attends numerous trade shows around the world and frequently speaks about trends and social media for the attractions industry at conferences. Outside of Blooloop his passions are diving, trees and cricket.

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