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Aquarium will pay off

While the Great Lakes Aquarium will provide each visitor with a special experience, it will also provide the city of Duluth with another major attraction.

While the Great Lakes Aquarium will provide each visitor with a special experience, it will also provide the city of Duluth with another major attraction.
It's the type of attraction that could keep people in town for an extra day, using local businesses.
And its high visibility is guaranteed to snag some extra traffic off the interstate that might otherwise pass through the city.
The $33.8 million project has already kept a lot of construction workers busy and created about 70 new jobs on its own.
More than a dozen contractors and 470 workers were involved during the construction, which took 18 months.
"In addition to being a premier educational attraction, Great Lakes Aquarium will be a premier economic contributor to the area," said Ann Glumac, who chairs the aquarium's board of directors. "The aquarium will attract more than 400,000 visitors a year and generate more than $5 million a year for the area's economy.
"The additional overnight visitors to the area would be enough to support a 100-room hotel, she said. "In addition, we will employ up to 60 full-time employees.
"Our revenue streams will include admissions, educational programs and field trips, retail sales, memberships, group tours and facility rentals for catered events, all of which will help us fulfill our mission to educate visitors about the world's precious freshwater resources and inspire them to care for those resources," Glumac said.
Great Lakes Aquarium Executive Director David Lonsdale had similar views. He concurred that the facility expects to attract 400,000-plus visitors a year with a $5 million annual impact on the community.
"It's one more reason to stop in Duluth," he said. "It gives them one more reason to stay."
More visitors mean tax dollars for the city as Duluth gets both tourism taxes and sales taxes from visitors. Tourism taxes are paid on lodging, food and beverages.
The aquarium has also been a factor in many discussions on the future of Duluth's waterfront property and was a consideration in design plans for Bayfront Festival Park.
"This is a fabulous addition to Duluth -- a real jewel in the crown of our continuing thoughtful waterfront development," said Terry Mattson, executive director of the Duluth Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The Canal Park area already is home to several popular attractions -- the William A. Irvin ore boat, the Vista Fleet Harbor Cruises, the OmniMax Theatre and the Maritime Museum -- and this gives visitors one more reason to come to Duluth and stay longer to enjoy it."
Tourism already has an estimated $400 million impact on the area's economy, Mattson said.
Construction on the aquarium began in January 1999. It was funded by $16 million from the state, $5.4 million from the city and the Duluth Economic Development Authority, and $12.4 million in private contributions and loans.
Great Lakes Aquarium has approximately $4 million dollars in exhibitry, rare in most museums and aquariums. During budget cuts, this was not touched. "We didn't want to risk changing the visitor experience," said Lonsdale.
To make sure everything is just right when the doors open on July 29, several test groups will help the staff refine and perfect the visitor experience.
Word about Duluth's newest attraction has been spread through state and national publicity, including a write-up in USA Today.
There has also been some European press coverage and more could be forthcoming as the aquarium develops an exhibit exchange program.
One of the planned exhibits would be a U.S. grant funded exchange with Russia.

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