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Tennessee Aquarium
announces expansion plans

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Sept. 25, 2002) - The Tennessee Aquarium today announced plans to build a 60,000-square-foot, $30 million expansion that takes visitors beneath the waves and out to the open ocean.

"The Tennessee Aquarium tells the river's story - following the journey of a raindrop high in the Appalachian Forest to the Gulf of Mexico. The new building is a natural extension of the story of the water's journey from the mountains to the sea," said Charlie Arant, Aquarium president, at a press conference held on the expansion site just east of the Aquarium.

The centerpiece of the new building is an expansion of the Aquarium's popular Gulf of Mexico exhibit, explained Arant. This saltwater exhibit is nearly eight times the size of the current Gulf exhibit, and gives visitors a vast and endless view. Much like the open ocean, the boundaries of the exhibit won't be discernable.

"Imagine gazing into a watery world and gaping at 10-foot-long sharks, fierce barracuda, schools of silvery jacks and a mosaic of colorful reef fish," said Jackson Andrews, Aquarium director of husbandry and operations. "Seen from various vantage points on several levels, the Gulf tank will be surrounded by smaller galleries that may feature unusual creatures like cuttlefish, squid and jellyfish."

The sea floor of the new Gulf exhibit is unique among aquariums and mimics the underwater Flower Garden at the National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico, where coral formations unlike any others in the world occur, said Andrews. A premiere diving destination, the Flower Garden is 350 acres of massive coral reefs featuring dense schools of tropical fish, sting rays, turtles and sharks.

"As visitors travel to the top of the new building, they'll be enveloped by natural light streaming in through a wall of windows that showcases the natural beauty of the Tennessee River and the mountains and hills beyond," said Architect Peter Chermayeff of Chermayeff, Sollogub & Poole, Inc. In addition to designing the expansion, the Boston, Mass., firm was also the Aquarium's original architect.

"Topping Chattanooga's newest jewel will be an area that richly engages the senses with many levels of discovery," said Chermayeff. The 30-foot-high sunlit space is a place where visitors can get up close and even hands-on with live animals."

"It was our visitors who helped us decide what form the expansion would take," said Arant. "Through extensive surveying, we discovered that visitors want to see saltwater exhibits that are as compelling as our existing freshwater exhibits. They also told us they want more animal encounters."

"But the new building is more than an expansion - bigger isn't necessarily better," explains Arant. "The expansion results from a desire to provide a world-class aquarium experience for our visitors."

In addition to the main galleries, the new building allows for strategic, planned growth in the form of "shell" galleries - large spaces that will allow new exhibits to be added in the future. "This is important to the Aquarium's mission of remaining fresh, new and world class -- and it gives us enormous flexibility for our future." said Arant.

The Aquarium expansion will be a key element of the 21st Century Waterfront Plan, a 129-acre vision that evolved out of a broad-based civic planning process that capitalizes on our greatest natural resource, the Tennessee River.

"What's great about Chattanooga goes far beyond the Aquarium. Think about all that's happened here in the last decade," said Arant. "Visitors come to Chattanooga because we're a family-friendly destination where you can experience several attractions as well as our natural beauty. The Aquarium's expansion is one piece of the larger Riverfront Plan -- a plan that was created to improve Chattanooga."

Aquarium Expansion at a Glance:

  • Site Location: Approximately 75 feet to the east of the original building (where the tent currently stands)
  • Size: 60,000 square feet and holds 650,000 gallons of water
  • Shape: As a "sister" to the original Aquarium building that has become such a landmark for Chattanooga's riverfront renaissance, the new building also has a translucent peaked roof. (The original building is 130,000 square feet, the height of a 12-story building and holds 400,000 gallons of water.)
  • Cost: $30 million - Funded by a $10 million Aquarium bond issue and $20 million raised through combined efforts with the 21st Century Waterfront fundraising campaign.
  • Architect: Chermayeff, Sollogub & Poole, Inc. - Boston, Mass. - The three principle architects also designed the original Aquarium building.
  • Groundbreaking: summer 2003
  • Grand opening: May 1, 2005
  • Engineer: March Adams and Associates, Inc. - Chattanooga, Tenn. - Providing engineering design, including life support systems, March Adams also designed the IMAX 3D Theater.

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The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $14 per adult and $7.50 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.75 per adult and $5.25 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $18 for adults and $10.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

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