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Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Second Chance

Recent news that the planned hotel for the corner of Lee St and South Elm St will not be built has breathed new life into the gills of the downtown Greensboro Aquarium Project. Read about it on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Uptown Instead Of Downtown?

Well the Greensboro City Council sort of let the wind out of our sails when they recently sold the coveted spot on the corner of Lee Street and S Elm Street as a possible site for a Downtown Greensboro Aquarium but then I got to thinking, why not Uptown instead?

Uptown borders Downtown, land is 1/10th the cost and unlike Downtown, access to major highways is measured in seconds instead of minutes. Follow the link to see the map of Uptown Greensboro.

Not only that, but the area is in desperate need of jobs, has a lower crime rate than Downtown (according to GPD) and is not all bound up in the politics of Downtown Greensboro Incorporated, Action Greensboro and the other "non profits" who are netting all the small fry Downtown before they're big enough to spawn.

Anyway, it's just another idea swimming around in my brain.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Concord Considers Incentives For Dinky Aquarium

The City of Concord, North Carolina is considering $238,000 in incentives to the Simon Property Group to add space to the 1.4 million-square-foot Concord Mills mall for a Sea Life aquarium that is just about the same size as the soon to be completed Greensboro Natural Science Center Aquarium. 

Without a doubt the little aquarium will be a boost to Concord but here's what it won't be:

It won't be a world class aquarium.
The Concord aquarium won't contain a research center employing high paying marine biologists, pharmaceutical researchers or nano-tech researchers.
It won't contain the rarest aquarium species in the world.
There will be no penguins.
There will be no mammals.
It might have an Alligator Snapping Turtle but hey, while they're not Alligator Snapping Turtles we've got some 150 pound or better regular Snapping Turtles running around right here in Greensboro. You just have to know where to look.
It won't draw visitors from hundreds of miles away. Greensboro residents might drive 80 miles to the Concord Mills mall to go shopping but if all they want to see is a dinky aquarium they need only drive to Lawndale Drive where some of the rarest fish in the world will be on display. Let me see, should I drive over an hour to see run of the mill fish or 10 minutes to see rare breeds?
And now you can bet no one from Concord or Charlotte will be coming to Greensboro to see the Natural Science Center Aquarium unless say, tickets to a Downtown Greensboro Aquarium included passes and/or a shuttle.
There will be no university campus there. Hey, it's a mall.
No Aquaponics, no fresh fish or vegetables grown locally and placed on grocer's shelves, local restaurants or exported to other parts of the country providing local jobs beyond the walls of the aquarium.
No water sales from the Randalman Dam to put money in Greensboro city coffers.
No tourists flying into PTI.
No downtown jobs.
No local environmental research.
It won't promote the Natural Science Center Aquarium and other Greensboro attractions.

And unlike the Concord Mills mall, the Greensboro Aquarium Project isn't asking the City of Greensboro for incentives, only cooperation and coordination, the things we all pay our taxes to cities to do.

I don't know if any of this is possible but I do know one thing. All of Greensboro's leaders know about this effort. I told them myself.  And as long as they ignore it, it will remain impossible. Perhaps you should tell them too?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Today Is Penguin Awareness Day

Too bad Downtown Greensboro has no aquarium for penguins to frolic and play.

No Smoke, No Mirrors

Here at the Downtown Greensboro Aquarium Project we don't have $20 Million in secret donations. We're not looking for $20 Million in City funding. And we're certainly not laying claim to Hotel-Motel Taxes or Sweepstakes Gambling taxes as a way to raise funding for our project. Want to know who's behind this project? You're looking at us.

Our hope is that the City of Greensboro will trade the project the abandoned property on the southeast corner of Elm and Lee as a location for the project in return for a significant number of shares of stock in the venture.

We're hoping that at least some of our off campus sites could be gotten from local developers/building owners in the same way.

You see, many corporations are started in just this way with the major stockholders pitching in property or inventory instead of money. One North Carolina example that I know of is the Golden Corral Corporation. Golden Corral was started by a Greensboro construction contractor, a Raleigh floral wholesaler, a Sanford brick manufacturer, a Sanford electrical supplier, a Wilmington restaurant equipment wholesaler and a South Carolina lumber company. I know that because I drove the tractor-trailer that delivered all those items to their construction sites. There was not a chef or a cook in the bunch.

I'm assuming the Raleigh floral wholesaler put up a lot of the cash needed but who knows what else he might have had going on or what sort of inventory he might have had laying around.

I don't mind telling you that Ed Catalano and I don't have $Millions to invest in the project. At least I know I don't and it's a pretty good bet Ed's drywall and painting business hasn't made him that kind of money either. But we both believe the aquarium will be a major economic driver for Greensboro and that it won't be a long term drain on the taxpayers even if it does need a little help getting off the ground. So please, don't stop with this one blog post. Click on our home page then scroll back through the many posts I've written here. Then go check out what Ed is posting to our Greensboro Aquarium Facebook Page. Check out our FAQ and send your questions to I promise we'll answer them to the best of our ability.

Ed and I believe that if the citizens of Greensboro want a downtown aquarium project as a major economic development project then the citizens of Greensboro will willingly pool together to make it happen. That is, if they know about it. The problem is getting the word out. I have personally asked the local media to cover this story and have been refused, the reason cited: Ed and I are not on City Council.

In other words: if you hold elected office in Greensboro the local media will gladly participate in any amount of smoke and mirrors you wish them to participate in but if you're an average citizen with a genuine cause the local media hasn't the time of day to live up to their responsibilities. Yeah, we know how it works. So please, help spread the word.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Reprinted From The News & Record

"Natural Science Center grows, adds SciQuarium
• Fresh exhibits, more species, a cafe and even a new name are part of the changes for 2013.
   GREENSBORO • The sound of hammers, saws and drills have largely replaced the rumble of earthmovers and cranes on the grounds of the Natural Science Center of Greensboro. The SciQuarium has a real exterior now, and most work has shifted to the interior. But construction curtains and safety fences have popped up in other locations throughout the center as it readies for its biggest year since the opening of Animal Discovery in 2007 — perhaps its biggest year ever.

   “We had a zoo before we opened Animal Discovery,” said Rick Bet-ton, director of exhibits and programs. “But we’ve never had an aquarium on this scale before. It’s a whole new ballgame.”

   It’s also bigger in terms of the financial investment, the staff expansion and the sheer level of complexity that comes with a large aquarium operation, Executive Director Glenn Dobrogosz said.

   Animal Discovery was a $5.5 million project, with a 30 percent staff increase. All told, the SciQuarium is an $11.5 million project that will expand the staff by 50 percent.

   The opening of the SciQuarium, tentatively scheduled for mid-June, is certainly the biggest attraction coming this year. But there are plenty of other significant changes in store for the center in 2013, including its first-ever cafe, new exhibits in the Herpetarium and Animal Discovery, improvements to the tiger exhibit and a brand-new name.

   The new name of the center will be unveiled in March, along with a new logo and signs. It will cre-ate a unified identity for a place that is often known by its various parts, Marketing Manager Steffany Reeve said.

   “It’s going to be great,” Reeve said. “It will simplify who we are in one marketing message and show where we stand out.”

   The Natural Science Center will be special in having an accredited museum, zoo and aquarium. Few facilities have all three.

   “If you add in the Omni-Sphere theater, I don’t think anyone does,” Do-brogosz said. “When we unveiled the master plan years ago, that was the beauty of it. That reality is coming to be this year.”

   The first project to be completed this year will be the renovation and expansion of the tiger exhibit. New regulations require higher walls, and the center used the opportunity to improve landscaping, security and space. That project is expected to be complete at the end of January.

   Also this month, new species from Madagascar are coming to the Herpetarium, including giant day geckos, one of the largest gecko species, and tomato frogs, which get as round and red as the fruit they are named for. By the end of February, there will be a mixed exhibit of poison dart frogs, said Rick Bolling, curator of reptiles and invertebrates. Frank, a juvenile American alligator, is also a recent addition.

   After the rebranding in March, a new species will be added to Animal Discovery, said Jessica Hoffman, curator of Animal Discovery. A red panda will take up residence in the space that used to house the lorikeets. Though it is a distant relative of the black-and-white giant panda, it looks more like a raccoon. It has a white mask that stands out in its red fur and a long bushy tail with red and white rings.

   The cafe may open as soon as spring but certainly should be operating by the time the SciQuarium opens, Reeve said. Having a restaurant on site will not only be nice but necessary, Bet-ton said.

   “The aquarium is going to add another hour or two to the visit,” Betton said. “You’re going to want to be able to stop and eat.”

   The big splash comes in June, with the opening of the SciQuarium. The fish-ing cat exhibit now has the beginnings of a rock sculpture inside. This Asian feline literally taps the surface of the water to attract fish, then scoops them out with webbed paws or dives in after them. A feeding tube has been installed so visitors can watch live.

   The Asian small-clawed otters now in Animal Discovery will be moved to an exhibit there and joined by an additional breeding pair. “We’re really hoping for babies, and they have lots of babies,” Hoffman said. “If we get a good successful birth, it will be mayhem in here with all those cubs running around.”

   The SciQuarium will be the first institution to experiment with using brackish water for the otters — which reflects their hab-itat in the wild — instead of fresh water.

   Visitors may be able to get face-to-face with some of the 13 African penguins, thanks to a rock ledge built right next to the front glass of that exhibit.

   In the Amazon exhibit, there will be another anaconda — larger than the one that currently resides in the center’s Herpetarium. The center’s two-toed sloth will share the tree tops with Golden Lion Tamarins, a primate species with long golden hair and an impressive orange mane. This exhibit also may be home to lizards, birds and freshwater rays.

   The largest tank will be devoted to an open-ocean exhibit, featuring sharks and numerous fish species.

   Dobrogosz really is look-ing forward to the day the sharks arrive. But the ultimate moment for him will be when the SciQuarium is finally unveiled to the public.

   “When that door opens for the first time, and moms and dads and donors walk in and say, ‘We get it,’” he said. “And the best part is, this is only phase one. We still have phase two and three. This is just the start.”

   Phase two is museum reinvention and renewal. “We’ll take the oldest parts of the museum and transform them into a modern, state-of-the-art science center,” Dobrogosz said. “It will also include all the little things, like new bathrooms, floors, ceiling tiles.”

   Phase three will double the size of Animal Discovery, with an endangered-species village called Sanctuary Station.

   And because he’s always asking, “What’s next?” Dobrogosz is already drafting phase four.

   “Not necessarily because I want to — though I do — but because you have to,” he said. “People today expect bigger, better, faster, more intense. What do you do to make them come back? You want to compel that audi ence to come out to you.”

   In the meantime, the staff is running full-out to get everything ready for the centerpiece of phase one, the SciQuarium. It’s a chore just figuring out where to put everything.

   Seventeen pallets of salt are waiting in the ware-house. Some of the animals for the new exhibits are already arriving and need to be housed in temporary space. But it’s all good, Betton said.

   “What drives the people here is the reaction of the visitors to the things we work so hard to create,” he said. “That’s better than a couple of hours sleep. It’s great to work at a place where people appreciate what we do.”

   Contact Susan Ladd at 373-7006, and follow @susankladd on Twitter.
   What:The Natural Science Center

   When:Museum open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Animal Discovery open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

   Where:4301 Lawndale Drive

   Admission:Adults (ages 14-64) $8; Seniors (65+) $7; Children (3-13) $7; Children (2 and younger) free. Center members admitted free. Greensboro residents, military and college students get $1 off admission with valid ID.

   Information:288-3769 or  "

Now imagine a Downtown Greensboro Aquarium 10 times this size and the economic development it could bring to Greensboro. Fish Man can.