Clearwater Aquarium To Expand, Add Jobs

Thanks to a little help from some friends, the home of a marine movie star is getting a much-needed expansion.

The Pinellas County Economic Development Authority helped the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) apply for financing from the Industrial Revenue Board (IRB). The application was approved in December, allowing the aquarium to expand its operations by increasing its physical space, upgrading its equipment and adding personnel.

"We need the space for where we are today," says David Yates, the aquarium's CEO. "We're anticipating a very strong response  with the release of the movie Dolphin Tale that was shot here.  So it's basically about meeting the needs of people, animals and cars."

According to Yates, the improvements will include construction of a chloride mitigation system, additional animal care areas and equipment,
installation of bleachers, a new 1,000-seat arena, classrooms, lobby areas, restrooms and a community room; an 11,300-square-foot addition to the existing building; a new parking garage; and the purchase of an approximately 1.5 acre parcel east of the aquarium. In addition to the physical expansion, the aquarium's staff is expected to grow by 10 positions.

The aquarium was temporarily closed earlier this year for shooting of Dolphin's Tale starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick, Jr. and Kris Kristofferson, as well as Clearwater star Winter the dolphin. The movie tells the story of how Winter, a bottlenose dolphin, was rescued from a crab trap, and had to learn to swim with a prosthetic tail. Winter has enjoyed national and international attention since finding a home at CMA. The movie is expected to be released in September. According to a release issued by Pinellas County, the movie shoot provided jobs and hospitality revenue, and is expected to do more of the same when the movie makes its debut.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: David Yates, Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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