New aquarium under construction on Madeira Beach - WFLA News Channel 8

New aquarium under construction on Madeira Beach

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MADEIRA BEACH, FL (WFLA) -

The Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium is under construction on Madeira Beach. President and CEO E. Howard Rutherford got kicked things off with a ceremonial swing of a sledgehammer.

"It's a go. Official," he said. "We have everything in place to move forward."

Secrets of the Sea is scheduled to open at John's Pass Village in November. Rutherford expects the $4 million dollar project will draw 250,000 visitors a year. The new aquarium will replace the Pier Aquarium, which has been at the St. Pier for 25 years. The pier is set to close on May 31st.

Rutherford said the new location will allow for a major expansion. The space is 13,500 square feet, with 14 foot ceilings. It makes it an ideal place for an aquarium. One of the main attractions is called Science on a Sphere. The six-foot globe will feature live video feeds from the world's oceans. Secrets of the Sea will also focus on showcasing research and technology.

"We're more than just pretty fish, although, pretty fish are the hook here," Rutherford said.

And he hopes that hook will reel in plenty of tourists. The Tampa Bay area already boasts two large aquariums, the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa, as well as the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Even with all that competition, David Downing, deputy director of Visit St. Pete Clearwater, said he believes there's room for all three.

"We've been on an upswing of tourism for several years in a row. We've been breaking record after record for visitation to Pinellas County," Downing said. "Every time we grow our tourism product, it becomes more popular."

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