(KCPW News) The Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy saw a 38 percent increase in visitation in 2009 and CEO Brent Andersen says the aquarium might need to move to a larger facility soon. Andersen credits the spike in visitation to a decision to accelerate the aquarium’s expansion plans in response to the economic downturn. This year, it opened a new exhibit on South America and a new penguin exhibit is slated to debut in March.
“So we look forward to a continued progress in 2010 and at the same time, as soon as we’ve added those penguins, we won’t have any more room to expand at our current location,” Andersen says. “So we’re also evaluating our options as far as building a new larger facility, maybe as large as 80 to 85,000 square feet.”
Since 2004, the aquarium has more than doubled the number of visitors it receives each year, reaching a record 333,000 visitors on Monday. Andersen says the aquarium is just starting to consider moving to a new location somewhere along the I-15 corridor on the Wasatch Front. The move could cost about $10 million.
Andersen says he founded the aquarium, the only one in Utah, to foster awareness about how life along the Wasatch Front is part of a worldwide ecosystem.
“All of these ecosystems, marine, freshwater, rainforest, they’re all tied together as one global ecosystem: The living plant. Whatever happens in any part of the world is eventually going to effect you, no matter where you live,” Andersen says. “I think that’s really the message we’re trying to get across.”
The aquarium opened its doors in 2004 in the Gateway after five years of bringing touring exhibits to Utah’s schools. The aquarium’s education program continues to bring exhibits to students, reaching more than 54,000 students in 633 elementary schools last school-year.