Georgia Aquarium’s expansion plans include new shark gallery

A new shark gallery, a redesigned main entrance and increased animal interactions will anchor the Georgia Aquarium’s upcoming overhaul.

Dubbed Expansion 2020, the project, expected to cost about $100 million, will begin in April to extend the aquarium entrance into the plaza and build an enclosed ticketing/box office area. A temporary entrance for guests will open in September.

The shark gallery is slated to open in late fall 2020 and is keyed to the aquarium’s conservation and education efforts.

“Sharks as a group of animals are underappreciated by our guests and the public in general,” said Chris Coco, senior director of fish and invertebrates at Georgia Aquarium. “We want to demonstrate how interesting they are. The elegance and diversity of sharks is pretty special to us. … We have to get past that ‘attack’ impression of sharks and instill in our guests what these guys are. They’re important to the ecosystem and keep it in balance. They are under great attack by humans for harvesting and the shark finning business, and the reality is that the sharks are truly the victims.”

RELATED: Inside Atlanta: Guide to visiting the Georgia Aquarium

The saltwater gallery — which will be named closer to opening — will feature floor-to-ceiling acrylic windows for optimal viewing of shark species that might include hammerheads, sand tiger sharks and sandbar sharks.

“I think there is a high likelihood we’ll see those iconic species. Everyone recognizes a hammerhead, right?” Coco said.

The Georgia Aquarium opened in November 2005 and retains its bragging rights as the largest aquarium in the U.S.

It already includes areas spotlighting sea lions, whale sharks, dolphins and penguins, and the new exhibit will provide animal interactions as well.

“I think in a general sense everyone likes animal interactions,” Coco said. ”I think the shark area could drive home the impact of sharks in terms of overcoming fears.”

Coco said the aquarium team is currently examining how the construction and “1 million gallons” expansion might affect the animals currently living in the aquatic venue.

“As we get closer to the construction timetable, the animal team will weigh in,” and decide what preventive measures might need to be taken, he said. Unlike past projects, such as the AT&T Dolphin Celebration in 2011, the majority of the expansion work is taking place farther south than most of the animal spaces.

Georgia Aquarium will, for the first time in its existence, seek funding for these upcoming upgrades. The nonprofit organization is currently in discussion with “partners and philanthropic” friends; a portion of ticket proceeds fund research and conservation efforts, as well as operating costs and enhancements, such as Expansion 2020.

On Monday, the Georgia Legislature passed a bill that will provide the aquarium with $4.5 million in tax breaks in the form of sales tax exemptions on construction costs. The bill now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.


Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

Concert review and photos: Bon Jovi romps through classics at Philips Arena return
Concert review and photos: Bon Jovi romps through classics at Philips Arena return

BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene Ten songs into a two-hour-plus romp, Bon Jovi went back to the very beginning. Amber lights created a halo around David Bryan’s curls as he tapped out the signature opening of the band’s first hit, 1984’s “Runaway.” David Bryan, in his usual spot. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC...
Vinyl siding gets an upgrade
Vinyl siding gets an upgrade

Homebuyers who relocate to the Atlanta metro area from colder climates are often surprised to find that few builders finish their houses’ exteriors with vinyl siding. While the colorful outside option has a loyal following in other parts of the country, the South has been slower to follow suit. And for years, there’s been one good reason...
How a fringe idea to solve the opioid crisis turned mainstream
How a fringe idea to solve the opioid crisis turned mainstream

The idea that a someone who’s not a medical professional could reverse deadly drug overdoses by injecting victims with an antidote was once fringe. Now it’s widely accepted - and got even stronger backing this month with a rare announcement from the U.S. surgeon general. Jerome Adams urged Americans to consider getting trained to administer...
‘Moderate’ drinking guidelines are too loose, study says
‘Moderate’ drinking guidelines are too loose, study says

A sweeping international study of alcohol consumption has found no overall health benefits from moderate drinking and calls into question the U.S. guidelines that say men can safely drink twice as much as women. The threshold for low-risk drinking, the researchers found, is about seven beers a week for men and women alike. The new report, published...
Unorthodox life inspires Charles Frazier’s ‘Varina’
Unorthodox life inspires Charles Frazier’s ‘Varina’

Varina Anne Banks Howell Davis, first lady of the Confederate States of America, was no pushover, no delicate Southern belle, no simple and refreshing glass of sweet tea. North Carolina author Charles Frazier, best known for his 1997 breakout hit, “Cold Mountain,” describes Varina’s life as full of woe. She was “beaten up&rdquo...
More Stories