Celebrating a Decade of Milestones 1992-2002
Tennessee River sweeps through the heart of Chattanooga
in a boomerang shape - the eternal symbol of full-circle
return. Ten years after the birth of the Tennessee
Aquarium on the banks of that river, Chattanoogans
and visitors by the millions have rediscovered the
city's roots by the riverside.
1984, when Chattanoogans sat down together to share
their ideas in a series of "visioning" forums,
they discovered one thing in common: They yearned
to get back in touch with the river.
had been three years since a group of architectural
students from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville
first suggested the idea of an aquarium near the downtown
waterfront. Task forces began hammering out the details.
A $750 million master plan, which included an aquarium
near Ross's Landing, was unveiled. A 1987 report by
Chattanooga Venture, the organization that spearheaded
the visioning process, called the interpretive center
"the engine that will drive the ambitious riverfront
the world's largest freshwater center began to take
shape, the community rallied
behind it with dollars, time and moral support. When
it opened, it told the long-forgotten story of the
river. And it became the catalyst that spurred a rebirth
of the city.
Aquarium is credited with sparking the rebirth
of the city's downtown and riverfront area, triggering
more than $1 billion in economic impact and well
over $300 million in investments in the Ross's
More than 11,300,000 people - more than double
the original prediction - have visited the Aquarium.
Aquarium created local jobs - 160 full-time and
more than 200 part-time and summer positions.
Aquarium has become an important learning institution
for 1,250,000 schoolchildren.
number of children attending summer camps grew
from 30 in 1994 to a predicted 550 in 2002.
Tennessee Aquarium Research Institute, now widely
recognized for its regional conservation efforts
and research, was born. Aquarium scientists launched
a program to save imperiled mollusks and, in partnership
with state, federal and private organizations,
bred imperiled lake sturgeon and released them
into their native Tennessee habitats.
than $100,000 was donated to the Tennessee River
Gorge Trust by Aquarium visitors who put their
spare change in the coin drop exhibit. The money
helped preserve more than 167 acres of land in
1996, the IMAX® 3D Theater opened as a complement
to the aquatic experience and quickly became a
popular destination for education groups and Aquarium
Aquarium has proven to be more than a building that
houses aquatic animals. It is a place of enjoyment
for visitors of all ages, an educational institution
for families and school groups, a vital research center,
a role model for conservation, and an economic driver
parade as colorful "schools" of fish,
and live music from Zaire, Russia and the Andes
Mountains drifts across the plaza during the Aquarium's
grand-opening Festival of Rivers. The three-day
extravaganza is deemed "Event of the Year"
by the Southeast Tourism Society.
the end of August, 650,000 visitors have toured
the Aquarium, meeting the entire first-year goal
four months early. With nearly 1.5 million visitors
by May 1993, the facility has more than one reason
to celebrate its one-year anniversary.
Landing Park & Plaza, a multi-million-dollar
city park enveloping the Aquarium, becomes a new
gathering spot for area residents.
Aquarium earns AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium
Association) accreditation and launches a major
research project to study the declining turtle
population at Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee.
mid-February, more than 100,000 area students
have taken advantage of field trips, computer
programs and auditorium dramas at the Aquarium.
magazine ranks the Tennessee Aquarium, which generated
more than $133 million in spending in its first
year, one of the nation's best.
research department opens with a full plate, including
a long-term effort to monitor native songbirds
and an important scientific conference, Aquatic
Fauna in Peril: The Southeastern Perspective,
the first of its kind in the region.
to support from patron members and the United
Way, the Aquarium's new community outreach program
takes the wonders of nature to hospitals, libraries
and schools across the Southeast.
first summer day camp welcomes 30 kids in two
weeks in a program so popular it will soon welcome
hundreds each year.
break ground for the $14 million IMAX Center that
houses the 3D Theater, Environmental Learning
Lab, offices and the Geo Gift Shop. The center
is a major addition that will echo the natural
environment at the Aquarium and entertain guests
with images from around the world.
operations and husbandry staff upgrade the Delta
Country gallery with an improved filtration system
and a variety of lush swamp plants. In the Nickajack
Lake exhibit, they add new acrylic viewing windows
and more realistic habitats.
the first time, the Aquarium displays sunfish
and other species spawned at the Aquarium's offsite
facilities in Cohutta, Ga.
festive crowd celebrates the opening of the IMAX
3D Theater with a parade down Broad Street. Over
the next eight months, more than 500,000 visitors
will don special lightweight glasses and immerse
themselves in the realistic films. In the same
building, the new Environmental Learning Lab,
the only 21st Century Classroom in Tennessee not
located in a state building or university campus,
sets a precedent for science education.
Aquarium welcomes its 5-millionth visitor.
Southeast Aquatic Research Institute (SARI), a
joint venture of the Aquarium, Tennessee River
Gorge Trust and UTC, is launched to protect the
area's natural resources and create hands-on opportunities
for college interns to hone their scientific skills.
Aquarium marks its 5-year anniversary and pays
tribute to its already-diverse turtle collection,
the largest in the world, with the debut of Turtles:
Nature's Living Sculptures. The new gallery showcases
creatures rarely seen in zoos or aquariums, from
the beautiful Indian star tortoise to the bizarre
Chinese big-headed turtle.
education department's new outreach van rolls
into the community, taking with it the Aquarium's
environmental message, giving low-income children
a chance to view nature's wonders, and delighting
kids and adults within a 125-mile radius.
community reinvests in the Aquarium with the facility's
first Capital Campaign, which will raise more
than $6 million by the end of 1998. The funds
pay for the construction of new exhibits.
first changing exhibit, Jellies: Phantoms of the
Deep, is an immediate hit, drawing a record number
of visitors eager to view the elegant lion's manes,
billowing moon jellies and other species.
researchers begin raising several imperiled fish
and snail species while they publish the institute's
first book, Aquatic Fauna in Peril. The
volume is so well received by the scientificcommunity
that an internationally recognized Harvard University
researcher deems it "a professional but very
year is the most prolific for turtle hatchlings,
with 86 births recorded, including six species
never before hatched at the Aquarium.
recognition of its marketing efforts, the Aquarium
is named "Travel Attraction of the Year"
by the Southeast Tourism Society.
Aquarium unveils its redesigned gift shop, a destination
in itself with a more open, "aquatic"
look, improved lighting and five easy-to-browse
one of the strongest years ever for education,
the Aquarium's home schooling program becomes
a national role model. And the facility's efforts
to serve disadvantaged pre-schoolers earn kudos
from the federal Headstart program.
researchers heighten their conservation efforts
by moving to the 65-acre, spring-fed breeding
site at Cohutta, where they partner with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service to save native mollusks
and lake sturgeon from extinction.
Striking Beauties, the Aquarium's second changing
exhibit, opens in an eerie, stainless-steel gallery
unlike any other at the Aquarium. Visitors are
"safely scared" by dozens of venomous
spiders, insects, fish, scorpions and snakes while
learning to appreciate their value and beauty.
Digital Communication Center opens inside the
Environmental Learning Lab. Aquarium educators
use multi-media and internet-based techniques
to help students explore the lifestyle of emperor
scorpions and other animals.
the course of the summer, onlookers gather on
the banks of the French Broad River near Knoxville
to watch the release of 1,200 young lake sturgeon
hatched and raised at SARI. The milestone event
is designed to help re-establish the species in
the Tennessee River system by 2025.
the magazine's annual Readers' Choice Awards,
Southern Living devotees name the Tennessee
Aquarium one of the top two in the South, no small
feat considering there are 14 aquariums in the
staffers prepare for the next 10 years, with the
introduction of a new, high-tech ticketing center,
renovation of the lower floor of the building,
and intensive customer service training for all
Aquarium hosts one of the most highly-attended
regional AZA conferences, offering workshops for
330 aquarium and zoo experts across the U.S.
a milestone year that brought more than $240,000
in federal funding for conservation efforts at
SARI - renamed TNARI (Tennessee Aquarium Research
Institute) - the institute is awarded its largest
grant ever. The $95,000 contract will support
a multi-year survey of mollusks in the upper Coosa
revamped, permanent gallery Discovery Hall debuts
with baby alligators, odd-looking paddlefish,
and a lake sturgeon touch station.
Aquarium celebrates its 10th anniversary with
the grand opening of Seahorses: Beyond Imagination
in the building's expanded lower level. Delicate
seadragons, pipefish and, of course, seahorses
are expected to wow visitors with their unusual
Tennessee Aquarium is named one of the top four
animal attractions in the South by Family Fun
Learn more about the Tennessee