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Pinellas Industrial Revenue Bonds Help Fund Clearwater Marine Aquarium Expansion

PINELLAS COUNTY, FLA - An Industrial Revenue Bond (IRB), through the Pinellas County Economic Development Authority, will assist the Clearwater Marine Aquarium as it completes its multi-year expansion by 2020. 

Working with Pinellas County Economic Development, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium applied for the $15.9 million IRB financing in January 2018 and received approval on March 20, 2018.

We are pleased to work with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to help expand their facilities to further their mission of rescuing and rehabilitating marine animals and educating our citizens and visitors about the importance of conservation and sustainable ecosystems," shared Commissioner Kenneth T. Welch, 2018 Chairman of the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners.

"Expanding our facility will not only enhance the guest experience but will also improve the quality of life for our non-releasable marine residents and increase care for rescued animals while they are hospitalized receiving life-saving treatments." says David Yates, President and CEO of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

The Aquarium has frequently had to turn away animals for rehabilitation due to space limitations, and this project will allow it to rescue and rehabilitate many more animals and additional species.

Plans for the expansion include five new dolphin habitats, exhibit space, an elevated deck, the final phase of a 378-space parking structure and a new building for guest and educational space. It will triple the rescued dolphin habitat and the increased volume of water will allow all non-releasable animals more room for exercise, play, and interaction with conspecifics, and their team of Animal Care Specialists.

CMA will be able to double the number of rehabilitation cases being treated at once. There will be more natural underwater rock formations, large viewing windows for both visitors and the animal care team, and the large medical habitat will be equipped with an elevating floor to minimize stress on the animal during medical checkups.

Industrial Revenue Bonds are issued by local governments on behalf of qualified manufacturers and 501(c) 3 non-profit organizations and offer tax-free, below-market-rate, long term financing of land, buildings and equipment.

"The Industrial Revenue Bond program is a fantastic tool for expanding businesses and non-profits," states Cindy Margiotta, Senior Manager with Pinellas County Economic Development. "Using the IRB to help finance their capital costs will enable the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to rescue and rehabilitate many more animals and enhance the guests experience, which is good for the aquarium and Pinellas County."

This IRB project was made possible through the work of partners including BB&T, Bryant Miller Olive, Moore & Van Allen and Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen.

In addition to the IRB, in 2017 CMA was awarded $26 million in funding through the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council's Capital Projects Funding Program for some of the renovations associated with the proposed financing.  

The total project cost is $66 million, and CMA has also received funding from both the State and the City of Clearwater for this unique project.

The Aquarium's attendance has grown more than four-fold since 2012 thanks to the aquarium's most famous resident and movie star, Winter the Dolphin. The 2011 "Dolphin Tale" movie and its 2014 sequel tell the story of Winter, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who lost her tail after becoming entangled in a crab trap, but learned to swim without a tail and with a prosthetic tail. Winter and the story of her prosthetic tail has inspired millions to persevere through life's toughest obstacles.

"Our mission has always been about rescue, rehabilitation and education, but it's exciting to think of the impact we can have on our community; as Clearwater Beach's number one tourist attraction, we're proud to call Pinellas County home and we'll be even more proud to say that we've helped to add jobs and revenue to the local economy." Says Yates.

The FSBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development is an Equal Opportunity/Equal Access/Affirmative Action Institution. For disability accommodations please contact St. Petersburg College Security at (727) 791-2560  a minimum of five days in advance.

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