[RENDERINGS] Florida Aquarium announces massive $40 million expansion

Rendering of a seal habitat
Rendering courtesy Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium shared big news this week as it announced a $40-million expansion plan that will include several exciting new exhibits, including a grand outdoor sea lion habitat. The first of three phases for the project will begin in January of 2023 and is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

Florida Aquarium’s expansion project includes the addition of a rotating special exhibit gallery, converting the second-floor lobby into to multi-species gallery that features puffins, and a large-scale outdoor exhibit featuring California sea lions for the first time on the west coast of Florida. A significant African penguin habitat will also be part of the outdoor expansion.

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“We are reinvigorating The Florida Aquarium by creating innovative and immersive habitats and exhibits, providing captivating guest experiences, and expanding our dynamic animal collection that advances our commitment to saving wildlife and wild places,” said Roger Germann, president and CEO. “Today we take a major step forward in building the world-class aquarium that Tampa Bay deserves.”

This will be the first major expansion for The Florida Aquarium since it opened in 1995, and the move comes largely in response to its growing popularity among locals and tourists alike. As such, an expanded guest experience and pathway will help with the growing marketplace and historic visitor attendance at The Florida Aquarium in recent years. It also delivers on the Aquarium’s mission to connect guests to the marine world in meaningful and inspiring ways. Equally as important, the expansion helps The Florida Aquarium deliver on its promise to have a more global perspective in conservation.

Sprawling expansion prioritizes animal welfare standards

Renderings of a penguin habitat
Rendering courtesy Florida Aquarium

Space Haus, an esteemed architectural design firm known for their expertise in the zoo and aquarium industry, led the creative design of the expansion project. The firm lits of previous projects includes The Shedd Aquarium, National Aquarium of New Zealand, and the Dallas and Kansas City Zoos. The designs of all three phases of expansion prioritize animal welfare standards.

Phase I of the project will transform the existing ballroom space in the Mosaic Center into a 3,700- square foot special exhibit hall. Phase II, slated for 2024, will transport visitors to the rocky coasts and will feature an extraordinary two-level puffin habitat complete with a kelp forest, Atlantic salmon and other larger fish species. Multiple viewing windows measuring over 20’ will allow guests to see the numerous nesting sites and deep dive pool of this 45,000-gallon habitat for the beautiful and fun-to-watch birds.

The planned completion for the third and most ambitious phase will be 2025, which will showcase three separate but interconnected sea lion spaces. The project will include both a large main habitat and animal encounter habitat, as well as a presentation space including underwater viewing and overlook seating.

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Rendering of the aquarium's outdoor space
Rendering courtesy Florida Aquarium

The outdoor plaza will include a 39,500-gallon African penguin habitat which will allow for optimal welfare to a colony of up to 30 penguins. A uniquely placed bubble viewing window will be a highlight for young guests. A park-like atmosphere for the plaza will enhance an already exceptional experience.

Learn more at flaquarium.org.

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