Gov. McCrory celebrates completion of aquarium renovation

By on August 10, 2016

Sen. Bill Cook, Gov. Pat McCrory, Charles Evans,. Cultural Resources Sec. Susan Kluttz. Rear, Aquarium Director Maylon White. (Sam Walker)

Gov. Pat McCrory was joined by state and local officials at the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island Wednesday for a formal ribbon cutting to mark the completion of a $6.5 million renovation project.

“These improvements are the product of several years of planning and $6.5 million in private and public funding as part of our overall goal to further enhance North Carolina’s excellent quality of life,” McCrory said.

“This beautiful aquarium is one of the region’s top tourist draws, and these improvements will help support the growing number of visitors flocking to our state’s natural and cultural attractions.”

The N.C. Aquarium Society contributed $5.5 million to the project, according to society board member Charles Evans of Manteo.

The society generates cash from gift shops, membership and concession revenues at the three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, and also focuses on grant acquisition and private fund raising,

The renovated exhibits giveaquarium visitors a more interactive experience as they explore historic shipwrecks in the sea treasures exhibit, the wooded swampland setting of the seven area coastal rivers, the re-creation of the Civil War ironclad Monitor and a jellyfish display called Delicate Drifters.

McCrory said the timing of the opening was important after he announced earlier in the day that visitation to state attractions, historic sites and parks had increased in 2016.

From fiscal year 2014-15 to fiscal year 2015-16, which ended June 30, total visitation to the state’s natural and cultural sites increased by nearly 1.8 million visitors, or 7.7 percent.

The N.C. Aquarium at Roanoke Island averages nearly 300,000 visitors each year, which McCrory said is a crucial boost to the state’s tourism industry.

McCrory also said that more money is now available to make similar improvements to state-owned attractions elsewhere through the N.C. Connect bond package that was approved by voters in March.

“A lot of our state parks, especially in this area, have a lot of wear-and-tear and need updating,” McCrory said.

Roughly $100 million of the total $2 billion bond package was designated to the N.C. State Park system and N.C. Zoo in Asheboro.

$751,500 has been earmarked for Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, $870,750 for Merchants Millpond State Park in Gates County, $900,750 for Dismal Swamp State Park north of Camden and $2,830,500 for Pettigrew State Park near Creswell.

“We’re going to put that money into state parks to improve the quality of life in our state and to increase tourism.”

McCrory did make one promise during his remarks about his plans for a future visit to the Outer Banks.

“The next time I’m here, I want to ‘Swim with the Sharks’,” McCrory said about the program in the Graveyard of the Atlantic tank. “It will remind me of walking the halls of the Legislature.”

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