TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — New additions are headed to the Florida Aquarium in Tampa!
Tuesday morning, the aquarium unveiled a $40 million dollar expansion plan that’ll be executed in three different phases over the next three years.
The expansion plan will include several new exhibits, and the goal is to attract more guests and really elevate their experience.
“It’s going to be an opportunity to engage guests, deliver on mission and connect people to the natural world in a way that we’ve never been able to before,” said Tim Binder Sr., Vice President of Animal Care and Health.
He said the first phase of the expansion will transform the ballroom space in the Mosaic Center into a 3700-square-foot exhibit hall that’ll open next summer.
“That space will give us the opportunity to bring in special exhibits with certain themes and topics,” Binder said. “We’ll let them run from 18 to 24 months, maybe a little longer, and then change them out.”
Phase two will feature a two-story puffin exhibit that’ll open in 2024. The most notable phase is number three, which will be a California sea lion exhibit and African penguin exhibit launching in 2025.
“The African penguin is a critically endangered species,” Binder said. “It’ll be a breeding colony here. We’re working with colleagues from around the US to ensure genetic diversity in that population and everybody loves sea lions. It’ll be the first time that sea lions will be on exhibit on the west coast of Florida.”
While these developments will add excitement for guests, Binder told 8 On Your Side animals are their top priority.
“The health and welfare of the animals that are in our trusted care drive everything that we’ve been speaking about,” he said.
The conceptual design phase is done, the aquarium is looking for architects and construction companies to move forward with the next steps.