Print
Government

Fort Fisher Aquarium Seeks $20M Expansion

By Johanna Cano, posted May 7, 2019
A House bill recently filed would help appropriate funds for the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, which plans on expanding through a $20 million project. (Photo Courtesy of N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher)
A North Carolina House bill recently filed to obtain funding for the expansion of the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher would allow the aquarium to stay relevant in the community and continue to provide a quality experience for guests, said Hap Fatzinger, aquarium director.

House Bill 461, filed by Rep. Ted Davis Jr. (R-New Hanover), seeks to appropriate $10 million for the $20 million Fort Fisher expansion project.

According to the bill, the other half would be obtained from a capital campaign by the N.C. Aquarium Society and through admission receipts.

“We have identified that we need to continually update and refresh the experiences that we provide,” said Fatzinger about why the aquarium is seeking to expand. “We need to refresh the visitor experience. We need to create some new opportunities to engage our visitors, and we need to change the way that we're telling the stories of the North Carolina Aquariums.”

The bill states that the Fort Fisher aquarium is the most popular in the state and provides an important educational service for the community.

The growth of the aquarium, according to the bill, can be seen through its usage over the years:
  • 493,303 visitors in 2018
  • 25,000 N.C. schools hosted annually
  • 120,000 participants in its educational programs, camps and field trips
  • 505 volunteers who contributed 32,000 hours of service in 2018
The last time the aquarium had renovations was in 2002, when it underwent a $17.5 million project that grew the aquarium from 32,000 square feet to 92,000 square feet. The 40-year-old structure has had 6.4 million visitors since 2002.

Plans for the expansions are still in the design phase, said Fatzinger.

“We have engaged for about the last year and a half with some really good exhibit and aquarium design architecture firms to try to determine what the best renovation features would be,” Fatzinger said. “We do know that one of the enhancements to the facility would be a focus on our shark conservation work. We also know that being able to tell our story of how we impact and interact with saving animals in the wild is a really important message.”

While initial stages of the expansion project are underway, officials don’t yet have a timeline for when construction might start.

“We know that even if we secure funding appropriations from the state, we're still several years out in the planning and generating additional revenues to support the project,” Fatzinger said. “So, we are a couple of years out and we still have a lot of planning and work ahead of us to get to the point that we feel comfortable engaging in a contract and moving forward with the work.”

Fatzinger said Davis has been a longtime supporter of the North Carolina Aquariums and officials at the Fort Fisher aquarium feel fortunate to receive support from elected officials who see the value that the aquarium provides to residents and tourists.

Davis noted in an email that House Bill 461 will hopefully be addressed later in the budget process.

“I think this renovation will give us the opportunity to better embrace our community, to make the improvements and adjustments necessary for the growth of New Hanover County and to help us prepare better for what that looks like,” Fatzinger said. “Wilmington and the surrounding areas have shown us such great support over the years and we feel that this is an opportunity to give back to our communities by creating a renovated facility that not only creates more of a foundation for tourism in our area but also gives our local residents something to be extremely proud of.”
Ico insights

INSIGHTS

SPONSORS' CONTENT
Volety 0020 1121724229

UNCW STEAM Team Program Provides Access Point to Higher Education

Aswani Volety - UNCW College of Arts and Sciences
Deedee gasch

Analyzing the Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Tiger Woods, His Bar, and His Girlfriend: A Lawyer’s Perspective

Deedee Gasch - Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP
Natalieenglish 3301715113

A Strategic Plan for Community Prosperity

Natalie English - Wilmington Chamber of Commerce

Trending News

Renting Continues To Get More Expensive In Wilmington, Data Shows

Cece Nunn - Jun 24, 2019

Medical Building In Wilmington Sells For More Than $5M

Cece Nunn - Jun 25, 2019

At Mayfaire, New Physical Therapy Facility Throws Out Insurance Model

Cece Nunn - Jun 24, 2019

Adam Sisk Promoted To Principal Engineer

Christina Haley O'Neal - Jun 25, 2019

With ILM Business Park Fully Leased, Land Still Open For Development

Christina Haley O'Neal - Jun 25, 2019

In The Current Issue

Hampton Inn & Suites Opens In Southport

The city of Southport has a new hotel. Hampton Inn & Suites Southport, 4820 Port Loop Road, opened earlier this spring and features 88 guest...


Aquarium Named Among Nation's Best

The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher is among the top 10 aquariums in the country, according to a USA Today poll. Voters ranked the state’s aqua...


Info Junkie: Claire Holroyd

Find out which apps and tech are used by Skilly-do CEO and co-founder Clarie Holroyd, whose product is an online toolkit that promotes early...

Book On Business

The 2019 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!


Galleries

Videos

Power Breakfast - The H Word (June 13, 2019)
2019 WilmingtonBiz Expo Keynote Lunch - CEO, nCino, Pierre Naude`
Health Care Heroes 2018