The Vancouver Aquarium has been sold to U.S. company Herschend Enterprises.
The aquarium, which has been operating for 64 years, is considered one of B.C.’s top tourist destinations.
The facility has been struggling due to severe financial challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic and paused all public programming in September after an almost 80 per cent decline in ticket sales. But staff said this agreement will save it from permanent closure.
It will continue to be led by chief operating officer Clint Wright, who has been with the aquarium for more than 30 years, while Ocean Wise will remain an independent charitable non-profit ocean conservation organization led by conservationist Lasse Gustavsson.
Herschend owns two other aquariums, Newport Aquarium in Cincinnati and Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J., as well as the theme park Dollywood and Wild Adventures water park in Georgia, among others.
“This is a very positive outcome that secures both the future of the Vancouver Aquarium and the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre,” said Wright in a release on Thursday. “I have been fortunate to spend almost my entire career at the Vancouver Aquarium and I look forward to continuing to lead the organization as we emerge from the challenges of the pandemic and write the Aquarium’s next chapter. I have known the Herschend team for many years, they share our values, and I am extremely optimistic about the new and exciting opportunities that will be open to us with Herschend’s financial and creative support.”
As part of the agreement, the company will donate one per cent of annual gross revenues from the aquarium to Ocean Wise to support its conservation program.
The Vancouver Park Board said in a statement Thursday it was pleased to hear the news of the sale.
“It’s wonderful to know that this world-class animal care and rescue facility, educational centre, and top tourist destination will remain open in Vancouver, and we look forward to working with the new owners to help build upon the Aquarium’s remarkable work,” the statement reads.