Massive Georgia Aquarium expansion underway



City officials gathered Tuesday for the groundbreaking of the Georgia Aquarium's massive expansion project.

Aquarium benefactor Bernie Marcus and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms were among those lauding the forthcoming one million-gallon shark gallery and redesigned main entrance that will anchor the aquarium's upcoming overhaul. Joe Handy, the aquarium's president and COO, called the expansion a "game-changer" that will tell the story of the shark.

Officials hope the renovation will lead to a dramatic increase in visitors, getting numbers closer to the 3.4 million yearly visitors it saw when the aquarium opened in November 2005, Channel 2 Action News reported. The attraction currently gets about 2.4 million yearly visitors, the news station said.

Georgia Aquarium has sought funding for the upgrades — a first for the nonprofit. On Aug. 29, the board of Invest Atlanta, the city's development authority, voted 4-3 to donate $7.5 million to the aquarium.

Dubbed Expansion 2020, the multi-million dollar project will extend the aquarium entrance into the plaza and build an enclosed box office area. The saltwater shark gallery, slated to open in November 2020, may include hammerheads, sand tiger sharks and sandbar sharks.

Current inhabitants of the aquarium include sea lions, whale sharks, dolphins and penguins.

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