The exterior of the proposed addition to the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific set to open in 2018.
The City of Long Beach will loan the Aquarium of the Pacific $10.5 million over the next 10 years to help kickstart its construction of the site’s much anticipated Pacific Visions expansion project.
The loan was approved by a 6-0 vote by the Long Beach City Council Tuesday night and will give the aquarium a much needed “bridge loan” that is expected to be paid back in full to the city by the end of the term of the loan.
Assistant City Manager Tom Modica noted that the city is already one of the larger contributors to the $53 million project, and that the city granted the remainder of a $15 million challenge grant to the aquarium in December 2016. Modica said the project has already fundraised about $43 million of the targeted goal but needed the remainder to begin construction. He added that the loan, which will be doled out from the city’s Tidelands Fund, should not impact other Tidelands projects.
“Essentially the city will be getting a $53 million facility for $15 million in city investment and allow our wonderful educational institution, the Aquarium of the Pacific, to continue to grow and thrive,” Modica said. “This is their best year yet and they are doing really well but they are looking toward the future and how to grow this facility and continue to bring in the roughly 1.8 million visitors a year.”
The addition to the aquarium will include a two-story, 50-foot high wing with an immersive theatre that the aquarium believes will serve both as a world-class exhibit for issues like climate change, but also as something that will enhance the location and improve future attendance figures.
By granting the loan to the aquarium the city will effectively be acting as a bank in this instance, but Director of Financial Management John Gross explained that the repayment structure will actually see the aquarium pay back the full amount of the loan and “a little bit extra” which will actually benefit the Tidelands Fund.
The 29,000 foot expansion of the aquarium was originally approved for the city’s $15 million challenge grant back in 2013 when Tidelands Funds, which include the city’s petroleum resources, were buoyed by a higher trading value of a barrel of oil. Since 2013, that figure has been cut in half with the current price of a barrel of oil sitting at just under $46 per barrel.
The drop in price has affected the financing of the Pacific Visions project as well as other projects tied to Tidelands Funds, most notably the Belmont Plaza Pool replacement project which has been marred by a funding deficit.
Pacific Visions is expected to open to the public in 2018.