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Study: New Clearwater Aquarium will be a success

1:35 PM, Mar 7, 2014   |    comments
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The new Clearwater Marine Aquarium would be located downtown on the site now occupied by City Hall.





Clearwater, Florida -- The head of Clearwater Marine Aquarium says he's "very confident" his $160 million expansion will be a profitable success.

The aquarium released a study Friday that predicts more than a million people will come each year to a new facility they're planning in Downtown Clearwater.

CMA says there's now no doubt building this expansion is the right move.

MORE: See renderings of the planned new Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Even the experts doing the study said there's nowhere on earth like Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

And CMA's special combination of Winter the Dolphin, movies, TV, and the tourism market in Tampa Bay would absolutely make a new facility a success.

The new 200,000 square foot building would go up on the current site of Clearwater City Hall.

The consultant, AECOM, factored in how many tourists and locals would come, how it compares to other aquariums around the country, other attractions in our area, and much more.

They also predicted Winter's popularity continuing to rise -- not just from the Dolphin Tale 2 movie that comes out this Fall -- but also a planned third movie and a TV series.

"What's a second movie, what's a third movie mean as far as forecasting attendance? They're a very unique nuance that nobody else has had. So that creates a challenge for anybody doing a forecast," aquarium CEO David Yates admitted.

"But AECOM has analyzed all of that and I think what gives us a lot of comfort is the most conservative study tells us, again, we're gonna be in great shape."

Here's what the study predicts:

  • Attendance by 2019 would be stable at 1.2 million people a year.
  • That's around double CMA's attendance today.
  • Over the next ten years, they would collect a total of $35 million in profit, meaning the new facility will be a financial success.

The study does not factor in the $160 million cost of the building itself as most of that is expected to come from donations.

The next step for the aquarium is finalizing the plans and renderings, and then reaching out to even more potential donors.

But time is limited. Clearwater Marine Aquarium has until August 2016 to get all $160 million lined up, or the deal with the city for its prime piece of downtown land is off.

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