© Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium struggled in its early years. When the Florida Aquarium opened in March 1995, the Aquarium was expected to start paying off the debt it had accumulated from borrowed money. Since the Florida Aquarium borrowed the money on terms that projected ticket says would be able to quickly pay back the loans, the Aquarium was expected to own up to its projections. But, ticket sales were below the projected estimations. In 199, the City of Tampa took control of the Aquarium’s debt and led the manager to lay off a good chunk of the staff.
Throughout the early 2000s, CEO Jeff Swanagan turned the situation around. Previously, the Florida Aquarium mainly focused on the integration and relationship of science and wildlife. Under Swanagan’s direction, the Aquarium loosened its grasp on those ideologies, built new exhibits that featured exotic wildlife, and made entertainment the main goal of the Aquarium.
Around 2002, the Florida Aquarium paid off around $3 million of their debt. That same year, attendance hit a record high of 620,000 people. Within a few short years, Swanagan had led the Florida Aquarium to success. After the highly successful year of 2002, Swanagan left the Aquarium for the Georgia Aquarium, where he continued to succeed.
Following Swanagan’s success, Thom Stork became the next CEO. Stork continued to renovate the Aquarium and added many innovative details to the design to keep up with new technology. Today, the Florida Aquarium is recognized as a world-renowned attraction. The Aquarium continues to work on its master plan to have a new state-of-the-art design.