CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – While the staff at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is planning for a celebration of life for Winter the Dolphin, executives at the facility are looking ahead to what’s next. They know in order to keep the facility functioning, they must stay relevant.
CMA President Dr. Buddy Powell knows some guests who visited the facility in the past, did so because of Winter.
“I think we will see probably see a dip in our attendance,” said Dr. Powell. “Because there is a portion of our guests that come because they saw the movie or heard about Winter.”
But, he said, recent surveys indicated a growing number of visitors were not making the trek just to see Winter.
“We’re seeing that the number who are coming specifically to see winter has actually been creeping down over the past several years,” said Dr. Powell.
Andy Trowbridge is visiting the aquarium with his wife and two young sons. While he, like most, is saddened by Winter’s death, it won’t keep him from returning.
“You get an up close experience without a big aquarium feel,” said Trowbridge. “It’s nice for smaller kids to be there get the interaction and see the animals.”
Dr. Powell believes one of Winter’s legacies, was bringing to light what CMA’s mission is.
“Part of Winter’s legacy is we couldn’t be where we are today if it hadn’t been for that very famous patient that we had that inspired so many people,” said Dr. Powell. “Winter was part of what we are and what that is, is a marine life rescue and hospital so she actually came in as a patient.”
A celebration of life is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Nov. 20 at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.