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Florida Aquarium expands its appeal
A Times Editorial
Published November 3, 2007
It has taken a while, but good things are happening at the Florida Aquarium. The Tampa attraction has announced a $6-million expansion, the latest sign the facility is growing and becoming a force on the downtown waterfront.
Anyone who knows how the aquarium has struggled should see this development as a breakthrough. The city took over the aquarium in 1996 and slowly built it into a destination for tourists and locals alike.
The expansion looks to build on the increasing popularity of Tampa's channel district, an emerging enclave on the east side of downtown that sports new shops, restaurants, condominiums, parking and a trolley line. One new exhibit, Ocean of Commotion, will have interactive displays to appeal to children; other money will go to expand classroom and conference space and to purchase a larger ship for guided tours on Tampa Bay.
The aquarium needs to be mindful of its educational mission as it balances bringing in more revenue with telling the story of our natural environment. But the public should welcome this latest news. Taxpayers have a huge stake in the aquarium - indeed, in the entire channel district. More people are spending more time at the aquarium, and the facility is anchoring an entirely new community, just as organizers had hoped a decade ago. The aquarium should heed the lessons from overselling itself at the start as it embarks on a promising and well-earned new chapter in its history.