Pinellas County is a long-time investor in the Clearwater Marine Aquarium which had its first beginnings in 1972. In 1978 it became known as the Clearwater Marine Science Center. To date, the center is now globally known and is recognized for its research, rescue and release programs, science and marine-studies advancement.
Frank Dame, Chief Executive Officer, outlined the history and made note of Winter, who came to the center in December 2005 nearly dead from a tail-amputation by a crab trap. Dame said in 2006, guest attendance was 75,000. After the release of the movies, “Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale II,” attendance rose to 225,000. By 2014, the number was about 743,000, and Dame said they all dealt like “deer caught in headlights.” He also said the expertise and recognition grew globally.
The following year, guest counts rose to 800,000. In all, Dame cited a $2 billion economic impact on the area. With this came the realization of a 14-year-long dream to renovate the facility and accommodate the growth. The make-over occurred in 2020 and now the Clearwater facility is three times the size and includes new residents Rex, Rudy, Hemingway and PJ who came from Sea World.
Dame said, “It’s an amazing facility… and it will be an amazing opportunity for research, guests and the economy.” Dame said that over the next ten years the Aquarium will provide a $10 billion economic impact.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is in the process of creating a documentary about five white whales in its care and much more. The aquarium was present at the Board of County Commissioners as part of #purepinellas, where the best of Pinellas is highlighted every other month.