The Pier Aquarium will soon say goodbye to its home of 22 years at The St. Petersburg Pier.
Currently at 800 2nd Ave. NE, Suite 2001, in downtown St. Petersburg, the 1,500-square-foot Pier Aquarium will triple its exhibit space as it relocates, expands and rebrands itself, soon welcoming visitors to its new 11,500-square-foot John's Pass Village facility in Madeira Beach. The Aquarium will even change its name to the Marine Discovery Center & Aquarium (MDCA).
Scheduled to open by the end of 2012, MDCA will focus on state-of-the-art marine research developed by the St. Petersburg Ocean Team and will premiere four major new exhibits, larger live exhibits and an expanded Touch Tank.
"There's not much that we can do with the current space," says Emily Stehle, PR and marketing director for the Aquarium. "If we wanted to bring in any new exhibits right now, we would have to tear something out. We actually have commitments for exhibits that can't fit in our space at the Pier because they're just too big."
With improved space and opportunities for enhanced technology, MDCA will focus on being more interactive for visitors, bringing real-time information, as well as an expansion of their programming for students and school groups.
"Before we decided on John's Pass Village, we had a board committee researching relocation and come up with criteria, and it had to be waterfront," says Stehle of the new two-story space adjacent to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and a new Hooters. "We also needed adequate space for exhibits, but we needed vertical space as well as horizontal space."
Teaming up with award-winning exhibit design team Hands On!, the abundance of vertical space will allow for such exhibits as Science on a Sphere, a 30-foot sphere with images projected onto it. The bigger space will also allow MDCA to apply for accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which wasn't an option at The Pier due to limited space.
The Pier Aquarium will move three months before the opening of the new MDCA in 2012. The relocation and expansion project is costing $3 million with funds coming from a variety of public funds, private foundations and individual corporations.
Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Emily Stehle, The Pier Aquarium