Allison, the famous one-flippered sea turtle who wears the world’s first sea turtle prosthesis, will be getting a larger holding tank by the end of the year, big enough for more people to gather around and see her swim.
Construction on Sea Turtle Inc.’s new facility, worth $4.5 million, is one month ahead of schedule, according to officials.
“People are going to see in the upcoming few weeks the roof going up,” said Jeff George, Sea Turtle Inc. executive director.
“We are on schedule to open to the public
in early December.”
George said the staff is very excited about the progress of construction.
The work has not stopped visitors from visiting Sea Turtle Inc. over the summer to check out the turtles swimming in the tanks and for the presentations about the endangered species — all while the new facility is in the making.
The first two phases of construction have been ongoing since the groundbreaking in February.
Phase one is the educational building. Plans are for the building to be fitted with a kiosk and a large,
that people will be able to walk under to view the sea turtles.
George said the educational facility is going to have a lot more educational displays and a larger gift shop.
Phase two is the amphitheater, projected to seat 300 people with a view of the wetlands.
The amphitheater will have stadium seating and will be fitted with an audio-visual theater system to provide top-quality experiences for visitors.
“It’s going to be great for the arts foundation to have evening concerts,” George said. “We are very excited about that.”
A marine life touch tank will give people the opportunity to touch rays, sea stars and other non-endangered wildlife.
The large tanks will hold 150,000 gallons of water. The facility upgrade also will include a larger parking lot.
In 2015, Sea Turtle, Inc. welcomed more than 120,000 visitors. Of those, 8,000 were groups of school children and teachers.
Additionally, Sea Turtle, Inc. hosts countless children from Scouts, daycares, nature camps and children’s homes across the United States.
According to the Sea Turtle website, the current facilities limit the number of children they are able to take in each group and prohibit them from hosting many special programs.
“Fundraising is going really well,” George said. “But we are still out there seeking contributions going into the remaining balance,” George said. “We keep changing things and having a brand new world-class facility is going to draw in people.”
George said the educational team has an obligation to change the attraction.
“We do see a lot of family come year after year,” George said. “And entrance to the new facility will be free, but we still intend to ask for donations and will rely on gift shop sales.”
One of the new attractions may be a behind-the-scenes tour for visitors to see the clinical aspect of the facility at an added price.
“I hope it generates some excitement in the community,” George said.
By RAUL GARCIA Staff Writer