KURE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Repairs to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher will alter the guest experience for a few months at one of the state’s most popular attractions.
A roof repair and fire suppression system replacement will close the aquarium’s freshwater conservatory building to visitors beginning Nov. 4.
The aquarium will remain open during the project, as all saltwater galleries, touch pools and outdoor gardens will remain accessible. Educational activities, daily dive programs and feedings will continue, while sharks, jellies and sea turtles engage and inspire guests.
General admission tickets will be reduced by $3 during the partial closure beginning Nov. 4 to $9.95 adults, $8.95 seniors (aged 62+) and military, $7.95 children(ages 3-12); children aged 2 and younger are free. The aquarium is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed only Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The repair project includes replacing the static and retractable roof panels and sprinkler system, both original to the 23,000 square foot conservatory built in 2002. A key aspect of the building is its transparent panels. Leaks in the double-walled seals have resulted in significant mildew and algae growth between panes, diminishing the natural light critical for healthy plants and animals. In addition, failing seals around panels have created roof leaks.
The fire suppression system has required repairs throughout the years. Its deteriorating condition could lead to a failure resulting in damage to the building’s interior and animal habitats.
“The aquarium’s coastal location is a beautiful, but unforgiving environment, with constant moisture and salt encroaching on critical infrastructure,” said Aquarium Director Hap Fatzinger. “These necessary repairs ensure we maintain safety and integrity for both visitors and animals in our care.”
The project was originally planned to begin in late 2018, but was postponed due to impacts from Hurricane Florence. Repair work is expected to continue into spring 2020.
During the conservatory closure, several animals, including Luna, the albino alligator, and Maverick, the rescued bald eagle, will receive care in nonpublic areas of the aquarium.
“We know visitors care deeply about Luna, Maverick and all animals in aquarium care,” said Fatzinger. “Our team is laser focused on their needs and well-being now and throughout this project.”
Paragon Building Corporation of Wilmington submitted the winning construction bid for the repair work. Funding for the $2.3 million project was allocated several years ago from state repair and renovation funds and aquarium receipts.