TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Aquarium is launching a 14-month celebration with expansions, improvements and fun to celebrate their 25th anniversary.
The aquarium opened its doors on March 31, 1995.
On Thursday, President and CEO Roger Germann presented a series of projects and initiatives to grow the animal collection, create new guest experiences, expand conservation efforts and much more.
The aquarium will spend $14 million over the next few years on its projects, with $5.6 million going to exhibits during the 25th anniversary.
One of those projects is the CIBC Aquatic Lounge, which will open on Feb. 27.
Aquarium officials said this will feature several state-of-the-art exhibits to showcase new animals.
The exhibit is made possible through a multi-year partnership with CIBC Bank USA.
In addition to a new animal exhibit, The Florida Aquarium will bring “Washed Ashore – Art to Save the Sea” to the facility in the spring.
This traveling art exhibition features sculptures made entirely from plastic debris collected from beaches.
Two existing galleries, Wetlands Trail and Bays and Beaches, are getting “face lifts” as well.
That’s where Germann said the focus is.
“Our biggest concentrations are areas that haven’t been touched in some time. Our Wetlands Exhibit, 25 years young, our Bays and Beaches exhibit, and a few other things around the building, just as we do at home, kinda re-energize, re-imagine and remold,” Germann explained.
The Wetlands Trail will receive a new entry marquee, modernize theming and an interactive touch activity where guests can interact with Florida’s native animals.
“You’ll see things in our wetlands exhibit, that’s going to be a new exhibit where you can roll up your sleeves, you can get wet, and you can interact with animals that are native to Florida,” Germann said.
The touch experience will open in the summer.
Bays and Beaches will receive a new name: “Shorelines.” The gallery will be modernized, including new habitats and interactive exhibitory.
Aquarium officials state Shorelines will open in the fall and will give guests “opportunities to learn and engage with animals who live in the shorelines of oceans around the world.”
The roof of the building is getting an upgrade. Over 1,100 new solar panels will cover the aquarium’s two largest habitats, providing an upgrade to the building’s original canopies.
This phase in 2020 seems to be all about fun and guest experience for Germann, who has some surprises up his sleeve.
“Part of the 25th anniversary, you never know what we come up with and what we do,” he said.
“We also have a ton of things that we just want to party like it’s 1995, from giveaways, to tickets, and unexpected things like walking by and meeting a penguin. Things like that are going to be really, really important to us both here on site as well as in our community.”
The Florida Aquarium will also be expanding its coral conservation facilities at the Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach.
The center will receive five new greenhouses for coral restoration to be brought online in 2021.
The Florida Aquarium was the first to spawn Atlantic pillar coral through lab-induced techniques in the summer of 2019.
Looking forward, the aquarium will open a temporary community butterfly garden in March 2021 at the front of their building for the public to enjoy.
The aquarium said they are also focusing on enhancing guest engagement during their 25th anniversary celebration.
Starting Jan. 25 and 26 and on select weekends throughout the year, Florida residents receive $19.95 admission in honor of the aquarium’s 1995 opening.
Finally, the aquarium has many other events planned for the next 14 months, including the first-ever “adult slumber party,” a 21 and up Spring Break celebration with a 90s twist and reimagined favorites like SeaGrapes and Brews By the Bay.
Germann is looking forward to moving in to the next 25 years of The Florida Aquarium.
Their mission has always been to save wildlife and protect and restore the blue planet.
“But one of the unique things that makes us The Florida Aquarium is to provide these amazing experiences that connect people to nature. Unfortunately we have this nature deficit that’s happening in the world where people are just not out doors, even here in Florida,” Germann said.
“Things like our stingray exhibit where you’re scared of a stingray or a jelly, we’re giving you an opportunity to learn about those, debunk myths. So through experiences, through world-class exhibitory, we are able to connect folks and further our mission.”