Pier Aquarium , St. Petersburg, Florida
The Pier Aquarium has been homeless since the closing of The Pier in downtown St. Petersburg could return to the city’s waterfront this fall as the public face of downtown’s growing marine research community.
Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium is set to move into St. Petersburg’s underused port terminal at 250 Eighth Ave. SE., just south of a cluster of research labs known as the St. Petersburg Ocean Team.
A lease agreement that could go before city council next month would clear the way for the non-profit Secrets of the Sea to move in an assortment of fish and coral reef tanks, audio-visual exhibits and other high-tech attractions aimed at entertaining and educating local students and tourists.
The space will serve as a preview center for the aquarium’s long-term ambition of building a larger project, likely as part of the new pier, says Lari Johnson, chair of the Secrets of the Sea project.
After the existing pier closed in 2013, the group had planned to move to Johns Pass Village in Madeira Beach, but financial delays dashed that idea and left the aquarium searching for a new home in Pinellas County.
The bright tropical fish, coral and an eel that had attracted visitors for 25 years at the former Pier Aquarium have been moved to tanks at the Guy Harvey RumFish Grill restaurant in St. Pete Beach and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s student center.
An all-new cast of marine animals would appear at the new preview center, though unlike the Tampa Bay area’s larger aquariums in Clearwater and Tampa, the St. Petersburg facility’s main focus will be education rather than live dolphins or other big sea creatures.