Seattle aquarium preparing for drop in visitors due to seawall construction

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

Loading

SEATTLE - The Seattle Aquarium is preparing for a drop in visitors of up to 25 percent because of the construction mess to build a new waterfront seawall. The aquarium might ask the city for money to cover operating expenses.

Construction begins in September right in front of the aquarium. The aquarium will remain open and CEO Robert Davidson doesn't know how many visitors will stay away. "You would guess that we're going to have a hit," he said.

Ninety-two percent of the aquarium's $13 million annual budget comes from visitors. It is owned by the city, and, since 2010, has been operated by a nonprofit. 

When the nonprofit took over operating costs, it did so understanding the city would kick in money to cover lost revenue during the seawall project. Depending on how many people keep coming, the aquarium estimates it could need between $1.5 and $3.5 million during the course of construction.

"We're not sitting on vast cash reserves or huge funds somewhere that allow us to just weather any storm," Davidson said.

Several waterfront businesses south of the aquarium will close between October 2014 and June 2015 to speed up seawall construction. The city will provide those businesses a total of $15 million in compensation.

Argosy Cruises, the Seattle Great Wheel and the Seattle Aquarium will stay open.

Temporarily closing the aquarium was not a viable option, Davidson said. "You don't just take a northern fur seal that weighs 600 pounds and put it in somebody's home aquarium in the garage."