CLEARWATER — The Clearwater Marine Aquarium broke ground this week on a $50 million expansion that will create larger habitats for dolphins and more space to take in injured marine life.
The facelift includes a 400-spot garage, three times the educational space and 103,000 more square feet in overall guest space.
The new five-pool dolphin habitat will have underwater viewing and be 1.5 million gallons, more than double the size of what the dolphins have now in the 1970s-era building.
CEO David Yates said the aquarium is also exploring the possible use of adjacent waters in the Intracoastal for a natural habitat.
Yates tweaked some aspects of the design to quell concerns from Island Estates residents who unsuccessfully challenged the expansion in an administrative appeals process this year.
To appease the residents, the aquarium agreed to: Change the traffic flow plan from exiting the garage through Island Way Grill instead to Windward Passage; prohibit beachgoers from using the garage; build the garage with a "townhome facade;" and scratch the Jolly Trolley stop that had been planned for the garage.