SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The Shreveport City Council took the first step to transform the Barnwell Center by voting to accept the introduction to lease the building to Planet Aqua Group to turn it into an aquarium.
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.
According to the ordinance, the lease will relieve the city of financial responsibility to maintain the building. Planet Aqua Group will be expected to make small lease payments and in exchange spend at least $2.5-million in improvements and provide programs that would benefit the public and economic tourism.
Planet Aqua rep Jon Whitehead says they've mainly had a positive response from the Shreveport community.
"Just overwhelming, Facebook page blew up, the website blew up, hundreds if not thousands of people have commented," said Whitehead.
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.
Whitehead tells KSLA News 12, he has received questions involving how the bond money voters passed a few years ago to fix up the Barnwell will be used.
"I think the biggest concern is people don't realize the money that was set aside for the bond is for the Barnwell building, and the city isn't actually putting any money into the aquarium project itself," he said.
Whitehead says their funding is already secure for the aquarium and don't anticipate needing additional money from the city.
The facility is expected to open in the summer of 2017.
The final adoption of the ordinance will happen on October 11.