Aquarium of the Pacific’s expenses piling up during closure

These days there isn’t a corner of this planet that isn’t facing hard times, and in Long Beach, you can add the woes of the Aquarium of the Pacific to places grappling with the financial difficulties that come with the nationwide and worldwide closures occurring in an effort to stem the rush and spread of COVID-19.

“It takes $2 million a month to operate the aquarium,” says its president and CEO Jerry Schubel. A payroll of $700,000 every two weeks is the No. 1 cost, he says. And, because 75% of the aquarium’s funding comes from ticket sales and visitors’ purchases, Schubel says, “Yeah, we’re sweating it out.”

Other costs mostly involve feeding the facility’s 12,000 animals—more than eight times more than the LA Zoo, and, while they’re not as voracious as lions and tigers and bears, they eat like lords, says Schubel. “Everything they eat is restaurant-grade seafood,” he says. “They eat better than I do.”

Energy, eating and cooling is another big expense. “All the animals require different temperature ranges and we’re constantly renewing the water.”

So, how long can the aquarium hold on? It’s the same answer for everyone suffering financially and otherwise these days: “It depends on how long we’re closed,” said Schubel. “That’s really the key. We’ll try to work with the city to see what kind of financial help we can get without being too big of a burden, because the city has got its own problems, too.”

And he’s just as reticent to seek contributions from the aquarium’s charter members or friends of the facility right now.

“I’ve decided not to ask for money during this time,” he said. “Because I don’t know anybody who isn’t having their own problems right now. But I expect we’ll weather this, if we can get back to business soon. I hope we can.”

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.