EAP, CITY OF SHREVEPORT AND PLANET AQUA PARTNER TO BRING AQUARIUM
September 10, 2016
A Shreveport landmark will soon have a new life as an aquarium. Mayor Ollie Tyler made the announcement Wednesday during an afternoon news conference. The long vacant Barnwell Center on Shreveport's downtown riverfront will become the location for the area's first aquarium, with a projected opening date in the summer of 2017. The development is in line with the promises Tyler made to the city's citizens to bring more family-friendly entertainment to downtown.
"We're growing economically and attracting businesses that will enhance the quality of life for our citizens as well as our visitors," Tyler said in a Wednesday afternoon news conference that outlined the project. Mayor Ollie Tyler announces the development of The Shreveport Aquarium during a press conference at City Hall Wednesday. The Aquarium will be built in Barnwell Garden & Art Center and plans to open in September 0f 2017.
The Shreveport Aquarium will be in the Barnwell Center on Clyde Fant Parkway and will feature interactive displays. According to the website ShreveportAquarium.com, visitors will be able to touch sea stars, sea urchins, shrimp, sting rays, sharks, sea jellies and more – including a touch tank where visitors can feel sting rays and sharks and learn how these animals adapt and survive in their environments. Guests will have opportunities to learn how they can make a difference in the sea world and ours.
The Barnwell Garden & Art Center will be transformed into this vision of the Shreveport Aquarium. (Photo: Douglas Collier, The Times)
Tyler said the city began working on the $4.3 million project 12 months ago. City staffers partnered with EAP — the Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program, a public-private partnership between the Biomedical Research Foundation, city and the Caddo Parish Commission — to bring the project to its starting point.
"To make this work, I think we touched every part of the city staff — it was a true team effort," said Dave Smith, EAP's executive director.
"It's another example of our administration moving from vision to action," Tyler said. The aquarium is expected to draw around 140,000 guests in its first year alone and to enhance the development of what Tyler calls one of Shreveport's greatest assets, the riverfront.
"The beauty of this project will create an educational synergy between the aquarium and Sci-Port, something that will be very unique for our region," Tyler said.
Jon Whitehead, director of business development for Planet Aqua Group – the organization that will construct a new version of the Shreveport property – said the chance to bring something truly original to the Shreveport area was one factor in selecting Shreveport for its flagship development.
"The opportunity to bring the Barnwell Center back to life was a very exciting opportunity for us," Whitehead said. Many local residents have emotional connections to the property that once hosted weddings and other memorable events. Whitehead said he hopes to restore the center to its former glory, but in an entirely new light. Planet Aqua Group is working with local architects, designers, contractors and engineers to build a sustainable, highly efficient location for the aquarium – what he called one of the "greenest buildings in the state."
Combining high energy lighting and a green water system with other forms of renewable energy and innovative techniques, the building is set to serve as a teaching tool that will create 45 new jobs for the area.
"This will not be a small version of a large aquarium. It's a highly immersive, interactive, hands-on aquarium experience," Whitehead said.
The aquarium will have more than 3,000 animals – ranging from snails to sharks – representing about 270 species of fish and invertebrates. The aquarium says it will follow and, where possible, exceed the highest standards set forth by the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums for obtaining, transporting and holding animals.
The Barnwell Center has been abandoned for a while but there are plans to get it ready for sale. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times)
"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," Tyler said.
Adult tickets are expected to cost $12, with admission for children between 3 and 12 as well as senior citizens 55 and older priced at $8. Children under 2 will be free with a paid adult admission.
Construction is set to begin in November, with an anticipated opening date in summer 2017.