Make us your home page

Clearwater Marine Aquarium has $12 million expansion plan

CLEARWATER — The Clearwater Marine Aquarium hopes to harness its moment in the spotlight with a $12 million expansion timed to the release of Hollywood's Dolphin Tale.

The aquarium is planning a SeaWorld-style dolphin stadium, an animal care center and a four-story parking garage for the crowds that officials expect will flock to the attraction after the film's wide release in September.

But the clock's ticking. Blueprints must pass through city permitting this month before construction crews could break ground this summer.

Work would take at least half a year, meaning visitors coming from the movie to see its star, Winter the dolphin, at the aquarium probably would head straight into construction.

Aquarium chief executive officer David Yates said that can't be helped. Without a parking garage, cars probably would spill into the residential streets of Island Estates, a waterfront community that lies between the mainland and Clearwater Beach.

"We want to make sure we're ready for what's coming," Yates said. "If we don't do this, there's going to be a mess out there."

Some locals expressed worry about ripple effects from the movie premiere during an Island Estates Civic Association town hall meeting Tuesday night. Several said they expect aquarium traffic to clog their neighborhood.

"Nobody asked the residents of Island Estates how they felt about this," member Arnie Shal said.

But Frank Dame, the aquarium's executive vice president, said the facility has been quick to respond to neighbors, changing its plans for parking to absorb much of the visitors' impact. Many in the crowd of 120 at the town hall meeting seemed excited about the expansion, applauding renderings of a snazzy new entryway planned for the aquarium.

"We are citizens of this community," Dame said of the aquarium. "We don't want to hurt this community."

Starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, Dolphin Tale tweaks the story of Winter, the aquarium's dolphin that learned to swim with a prosthetic tail. Local production wrapped up in December.

Once a sewage treatment plant, the waterfront aquarium has grown wildly in recent years, opening a new dolphin pool, a sea turtle rehab area and a surgical suite for injured animals. The city donated $750,000 in taxpayer funds to the private aquarium in October, hoping the expansion would lure tourists.

The construction would expand the aquarium from 40,000 to 57,000 square feet and triple its room for animal rehabilitation.

Dame said he expects 4,000 visitors a day after the movie premieres, nearly double the aquarium's record.

"The crowds are going to come," Dame said. "That's a very good problem to have."

Contact Drew Harwell at or (727) 445-4170.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium has $12 million expansion plan 05/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 8:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Toys 'R' Us files for bankruptcy but keeps stores open (w/video)


    NEW YORK — Toys 'R' Us, the big box toy retailer struggling with $5 billion in debt and intense online competition, has filed for bankruptcy protection ahead of the key holiday shopping season — and says its stores will remain open for business as usual.

    Shoppers shop in a Toys R Us store on Black Friday in Miami in 2016. Toys R Us, the pioneering big box toy retailer, announced late Monday, Sept. 18, 2017 it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while continuing with normal business operations. [Associated Press]
  2. Trigaux: Waiting for your next pay raise? Keep dreaming, employers hint

    Working Life

    The economy's bouncing back. The stock market keeps hitting new records. And the jobless rate in Florida may soon drop below 4 percent. Surely, these are robust indicators — key signs that an annual raise is just around the corner. Right?

    Who doesn't want a pay raise? Demonstrators have rallied for years in a number of states for a $15 minimum wage. But many workers across a broad pay range are unlikely to see much if any raises this year, a new survey says. [AP Photo/Seth Wenig]
  3. Florida Guard scales down troop strength; Navy sails away from the Keys

    State Roundup

    The Florida National Guard on Monday drew down its activated statewide forces to about 1,200 on-duty troops, mostly in operations focused on relief distribution in the Florida Keys — and the last of a mini-armada of U.S. Navy ships off Key West set sail for home.

    Soldiers from the Florida National Guard's Delta Company, 1st Battallion, 124th Infantry, 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team on Sept. 14. The Federal Emergency Managment Agency has reported that 25-percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed and 65-percent sustained major damage when they took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma.  [Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images]
  4. LOCALE Market hosting St. Pete job fair for hospitality positions


    ST. PETERSBURG — Locale Market / FarmTable Kitchen is hosting a hospitality job fair Tuesday in St. Petersburg. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the LOCALE Market at 179 2nd Ave. North, St. Petersburg. Organizers said they hope to hire about 20 workers with a focus on displaced workers from Hurricane …

    Locale Market is hosting job fair on Tues., Feb. 19. [LARA CERRI | Times] 

  5. So far, 335,000 Irma claims totalling $1.95 billion filed in Florida


    Times Staff Writer

    As of Sunday afternoon, insurers had received a total of 335,347 claims statewide for insured damage totalling $1.95 billion caused by Hurricane Irma, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported Monday based on preliminary figures.

    This shows a damaged mobile home inside Clover Leaf Farms RV Park in Brooksville. So far, insurers have received a total of 335,347 claims statewide for insured damage totalling $1.95 billion caused by Hurricane Irma.
[MEGAN REEVES   |   Times]