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Pier Aquarium considers options to downtown St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — The Pier Aquarium, in search of a new home in 2012, may be opening the door to sites outside downtown St. Petersburg.

As the city considers demolishing the Pier in 2013 or 2014, aquarium officials announced in May that it will move elsewhere downtown and increase the emphasis on research and education as well as change its name in 2012.

"It made sense in our minds that it was in downtown," said Howard Rutherford, the aquarium's president and chief executive officer. "Since then our board has done a retreat, and we had a group of MBA students from the University of South Florida conduct a survey of members, sponsors, donors and friends."

Survey respondents were asked if the aquarium did not exist downtown where the next logical place would be. Choices included Gulfport, the Carillon area and the beaches.

"Out of that survey the beaches ranked No. 1 for a site outside of St. Petersburg," Rutherford said, but he wouldn't offer further details of a short list of potential locations.

In the meantime the aquarium, which has been at the Pier since 1988, is still open, though it's experiencing slow traffic these days.

"We think that people have mixed messages about our current location about whether things are open or closed," Rutherford said.

This Saturday the aquarium will host its monthly Book Nook from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Suzanne Tate, a visiting North Carolina author, will read from her most recent book, Charlie Clownfish & Annie A. The Pier Aquarium's curator, Butch Ringelspaugh, provided scientific input for the book.

Book Nook is the first Saturday of each month. Along with hearing a book read, kids make puppets of a certain creature and can enhance their collection the more they come.

February is John M. Sexton Elementary School Month at the aquarium. Students and parents who say the password given out at school will get one child in free with a paid adult for the Book Nook this Saturday.

Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or kssmith@sptimes.com.

Pier Aquarium considers options to downtown St. Petersburg 02/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 4:45pm]

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