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ATLANTA, Georgia -- When Bernie Marcus cut the ribbon on the Georgia Aquarium in November 2005, he envisioned millions of people coming to visit and experiencing the treasures of the oceans, rivers and seas. On Thursday, June 25, the Georgia Aquarium welcomed its 10 millionth guest, setting a new attendance record for U.S. Aquariums.
“I was certain that everyone can appreciate the majesty of the earth’s oceans…. everyone gets the miracle….everyone’s a little in awe,” said Aquarium benefactor Bernie Marcus. “Reaching this milestone is a reflection of that appreciation, as well as a tribute to the guest experience that is provided by our staff and volunteers.”
Marcus and Aquarium president Anthony Godfrey, along with hundreds of Aquarium staff and volunteers, welcomed Annette Kalber of Atlanta as the milestone visitor. She was visiting the Aquarium with her mother, who is visiting from Michigan, and her sister, niece and nephew, who are visiting from New Orleans. As the 10 millionth guest, Kalber received a variety of gifts from the Aquarium, including annual passes for the family, a chance to swim or dive with the whale sharks and gifts from Aquarium sponsors – AirTran Airways, The Coca-Cola Company, Georgia-Pacific, The Home Depot, SunTrust Bank, AT&T, Southern Company and Turner Broadcasting.
The Aquarium has sparked billions of dollars of economic growth in downtown Atlanta, provided Georgia residents with an incomparable world-class entertainment attraction, and enhanced the state’s tourism offerings.
“With more than 10 million visitors through its doors in just three and a half years, the Georgia Aquarium has positioned Atlanta as a leisure travel destination with world-class attractions. We congratulate the leadership of the Georgia Aquarium for their marketing vision and unprecedented success,” said William Pate, president and chief executive officer of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In addition to introducing a variety of new animals, such as manta rays, sand tiger sharks, sandbar sharks and lionfish, the Aquarium has invited guests to swim with whale sharks, spend the night in the Aquarium and take Behind the Scene tours. There have also been numerous improvements since opening, including a $13 million project in 2007 that expanded the event/ballroom space where Wolfgang Puck Catering has overseen more than 2,500 events, and upgraded the facility’s animal life support systems. An added rotating exhibit space currently features Titanic Aquatic, which brings to life the story of the ship through authentic artifacts and interactive experiences. In November 2010, the Aquarium will open an 84,000 square foot, $110 million expansion for a bottlenose dolphin exhibit, with areas that include dolphin encounters, viewing windows and dolphin shows.
“Despite today’s tough economic times, the Aquarium will continue to provide new and exciting experiences to capture the amazement and wonder of our guests, who come from around the world to see things they cannot see anywhere else, and engage and interact with our fish and animals,” added Godfrey.
The Aquarium’s new license plate was also unveiled during the celebration. More than 10,000 people voted to pick the license plate design. Marcus was presented with the first Aquarium plate in recognition of the momentous day. Proceeds from the license plate benefit the Aquarium’s conservation efforts. License plates may be purchased through the Aquarium’s Web site, www.georgiaaquarium.org.
Georgia Aquarium Fast Facts