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The Vancouver Aquarium sold to Dollywood operator Herschend

The Vancouver Aquarium is transferring its ownership from Ocean Wise Conservation Association to Dollywood operator Herschend.

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The partnership was initiated by Ocean Wise in an attempt to prevent the permanent closure of the Vancouver Aquarium, which previously decided to close indefinitely due to COVID-19.

Herschend Enterprises has acquired 100 percent ownership of the struggling aquarium, which will still be led by chief operating officer, Clint Wright. Ocean Wise will remain an aquarium partner.

“This is a very positive outcome that secures both the future of the Vancouver Aquarium and the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre,” said Wright. 

“I have been fortunate to spend almost my entire career at the Vancouver Aquarium and I look forward to continuing to lead the organization as we emerge from the challenges of the pandemic and write the aquarium’s next chapter.”

Vancouver Aquarium saved from closure

Launched in 1960, Herschend Enterprises properties include Dollywood (Tennessee), Silver Dollar City (Missouri) and the Newport Aquarium (Kentucky).

Herschend Enterprises recently became a majority partner and operator of Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay, an amusement and water park located in Louisville, Kentucky.

“As a long-time aquarium operator we have always admired the Vancouver Aquarium as the gold standard in the industry for its combination of animal care, educational focus and exceptional family experience,” said Andrew Wexler, CEO of Herschend.

“We intend to build on this track record, enhancing the Vancouver Aquarium as an attraction for local and international visitors, and continuing to support the dozens of initiatives that make the Aquarium such a vital part of the local, national and international community.”

Herschend to develop long-term plan

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Under the agreement, Herschend will donate 1 percent of annual gross income from the aquarium to Ocean Wise. The company will also look to hire the aquarium’s former employees ahead of reopening.

“Ocean Wise is pleased to have gained Herschend as an ally in our conservation mission through their annual donation and our mutual desire for future collaboration,” said Lasse Gustavsson, president and CEO of Ocean Wise. 

To begin with, Herschend and the aquarium’s management will consult with guests, partners, staff and stakeholders for input on enhancements to the Vancouver Aquarium, before developing a long-term plan.

“I have known the Herschend team for many years, they share our values, and I am extremely optimistic about the new and exciting opportunities that will be open to us with Herschend’s financial and creative support,” added Wright.

Images: The Vancouver Aquarium

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Bea Mitchell

A journalist specialising in entertainment and attractions, Bea loves theme parks (mainly Disney) and is particularly interested in things of a gothic, horror or fantasy nature.

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