SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler announced plans Tuesday to build an aquarium on the riverfront.
"This is an exciting time for Shreveport and this new venture will help strengthen our economy and add richness to the quality of life for our citizens," Mayor Tyler said.
The 21,000 square feet, $4.3 million aquarium will be built along the Red River in the Barnwell Center. The aquarium is the result of a public-private partnership between the City of Shreveport, the Entrepreneurial Acceleration Program and the nonprofit initiative Planet Aqua Group.
City leaders say they hope to restore the center back to its original beauty.
"We've worked very hard to grow businesses in this area," said Mayor Tyler.
To fund this new facility, the City of Shreveport is putting in $1.5 million from 2011 bond money to get the Barnwell Center back up to code and ready for renovation. City leaders report Planet Aqua Group raised the remaining $2.8 million to make Shreveport its flagship aquarium.
"$1.5 million to bring it, to white box it, asbestos removal, getting the electrical, the plumbing set up for, really, any tenant," said Shreveport Chief Administrative Officer Brian Crawford.
Foremen working at the center said they have finished clearing the building of asbestos and are continuing their demo work.
Currently, Planet Aqua has signed on to a 15-year lease of the Barnwell Center with an option for 15 more years.
The opening of the aquarium will bring in about 45 new jobs to the area.
Officials say the facility will feature 3,000 different animals and 270 different species along with multiple touch tanks that include sharks and jellyfish. Leaders say that through the live exhibits and interactive displays, they hope to create an environment for learning.
"We want to show people that you can be part of a global solution to the issues facing this planet from right here in your own community," said Planet Aqua Business Development Director Jon Whitehead.
Upon opening, ticket prices have been set for $12 per adult and $8 per child ages 3-12. Children under that age get in free with the purchase of an adult ticket.
City leaders predict the aquarium will bring in 140,000 visitors a year which will, in turn, contribute to more economic development in the city.
"When they're talking about 140,000 visitors a year, let's just do the math. $10 a person? Wow. You're already talking over a million dollars," said Downtown Development Authority Director Liz Swain.
The facility is expected to open in the summer of 2017.