Bernie Marcus' Georgia Aquarium to be among world's largest
The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD
) co-founder Bernie Marcus, through his philanthropic entity The Marcus Foundation, will spend up to $200 million to build one of the largest aquariums in the world at the Atlantic Station development in Midtown.
Set to open by 2005, The Georgia Aquarium will have a 5 million gallon tank of unique and exotic aquatic animals in a 250,000 square foot facility that Marcus expects will attract 1.5 million to 2.5 million people every year.
The attraction will be built on 15.5 acres next to the Atlantic Station development and it will have visibility from Intestates 75 and 85, Marcus said.
The Georgia Aquarium will be the bigger in size than the largest indoor aquarium in the world, the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, which has a 3 million gallon tank. There will be other, larger parks around the world, but those will include actual coastline, Marcus said.
In a ceremony at the state capitol Nov. 19, Marcus handed Gov. Roy Barnes a blue bowl as a symbolic gift for the aquarium. "Because we don't have any plans to show you yet, we're presenting you with this bowl as a loan, and in 2005, when we present you with a new aquarium, you can give us the bowl back," Marcus said.
Unlike most aquariums which are funded by municipal bonds and saddled with enormous debt, Marcus will deliver The Georgia Aquarium on opening day as a completely debt-free enterprise positioned to support itself through positive cash flow, he said.
The facility could be explosive news for the city's tourism industry, for the Atlantic Station development and for Zoo Atlanta, officials said after the ceremony.
"I believe this could be the No. 1 attraction for the state," said Barnes. "It will be a tremendous draw for the city's convention business."
Stone Mountain Park is currently the No. 2 state attraction, with more than 4 million visitors in 2000. CNN Center is the No. 1 attraction, with more than 20 million visitors each year.
Silver Dollar City, which operates the park for the state, had tentative plans in August to build a much smaller, $42 million, 140,000 square foot aquarium at the foot of Stone Mountain.
Just saw this. Perhaps I am a late comer to this info but how exciting is this!! Anyone heard anything recent on this?