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New developer to lead Florida Aquarium's upcoming $40M major expansion

This capital campaign will be the non-profit's largest since its opening in 1995.

TAMPA, Fla. — A new developer is set to lead the Florida Aquarium's upcoming $40 million major expansion called Sea Change.

This capital campaign will be the non-profit's largest since its opening in 1995, the aquarium said in a news release.

“The Florida Aquarium is a community treasure and its impact goes far beyond our region’s borders,” Darryl Shaw, co-founder and former chief executive officer of development group BluePearl Veterinary Partners, said in a statement. “Having a vibrant, thriving cultural attraction like the Florida Aquarium enhances our quality of life and places us on an international stage.

"I have no doubt the support for their continued growth will be well received by the community. The Channel District is proud to be home to The Florida Aquarium and I appreciate the opportunity to serve in this role as they bring a new vision to the neighborhood, the region and the state.” 

In 2022, the aquarium unveiled expansion plans, including several new experiences and a grand outdoor California sea lion habitat. 

The Florida Aquarium's project began earlier in January and is scheduled to be completed in 2025. 

The project includes the addition of a rotating special exhibit gallery. This will be the first new exhibit to open to the public, expected to debut in late May of 2023. The second-floor lobby will be converted into a multi-species gallery, featuring puffins. This is expected to open in the summer of 2024. There will also be a large-scale outdoor exhibit featuring California sea lions, expected to open in the summer of 2025. 

The aquarium currently has an African penguin exhibit. An expansion of the exhibit will be a part of the project plans.  

“To have someone of Darryl’s stature chair this exciting next chapter is an honor and we are incredibly grateful for his willingness to support the Aquarium through his vision and leadership of this fundraising campaign,” Roger Germann, the Florida Aquarium’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “As Tampa Bay grows, we continue to reimagine our impact and ways to expand our reach across the region and nation. 

"This expansion will bring rich and lasting experiences and education to our neighbors and visitors from across the world and supports our purpose to save marine wildlife in our backyard and throughout Florida.”

While the project will add a lot to see for those visiting the Florida Aquarium, it also helps in conservation efforts for the animals on display. 

"Yeah, so everything we do here is going to be conservation-based," Germann said. "We want folks to have fun. We want folks to appreciate nature. The nature deficit continues to grow."

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