In 1980, a near bankrupt Baltimore transformed the decaying waterfront with the National Aquarium plus three historic ships within walking distance anchored on the bay. Now, Baltimore is the number one tourist destination in Maryland.
- 1982 – built the world class aquarium and anchored the USS Constitution from the Civil War, the USS Torsk, and the USCGS Tancy
- Derelict old warehouses on the Bay Harbor were renovated for shops and restaurants
- New hotels and a convention center were built
- The aquarium was located on the Bay Harbor minutes from I-95
- The aquarium is now the number one tourist attraction in Maryland
- The estimated attendance projected was 600,000; 1.2 million visited it in the first year and now averages between 1.2 and 1.7 million visitors per annum
Decaying and polluted, Chattanooga transformed the entire city with the introduction of an aquarium on the banks of the river in 1992. Later a Children’s Museum, new office complex, IMAC theater, and convention center were added and dozens of hotels were built. Now, Chattanooga is the number four tourist destination in Tennessee.
- 1992 – opened the 140,000 sq. ft. aquarium
- Projected 600,000 visitors, 1,000,000+ attended it and those numbers continue to this day
- Success sparked the funding for dozens of new projects, including a greatly expanded River Walk, new foot bridge across the river, a Children’s Museum, the Bessie Smith Museum, two new schools, and the new 60,000 sq. ft. Ocean Journey salt water aquarium expansion on the site
- City has been totally transformed and is the number 4 tourist destination in TN
- VW and Amazon built new plants in Chattanooga along with dozens of others
- Direct economic impact from the aquarium alone in 2011 was $9,250,000
- Hotel tax revenues grew from $1.8M in 1990 to $5.5M in 2011
Corpus Christ, TX
Stagnant Corpus Christi boomed after the introduction of an aquarium with the USS Lexington aircraft carrier anchored nearby on the waterfront in 1995. New hotels, restaurants, and shops were built and convention traffic soared. Corpus Christi is now the number four tourist attraction in Texas.
- 1996 – opened the Texas Aquarium on the banks of their Gulf waterfront
- Anchored the USS Lexington aircraft carrier nearby with a supporting museum
- Attendance has averaged between 650,000 and 1,000,000 per annum
- New revenues from the tourist traffic funded a new Art Museum and Science & History Museum, plus a new State Parks Stadium (for sporting events)
- In 2011, the economic impact of the aquarium was $43,000,000 plus 747 new jobs with a combined income of $15,000,000
- Now the number four tourist attraction in Texas
Dubuque completely transformed its fortune in 2005 with the building of an aquarium and greatly enlarging the Mississippi River Museum on the banks of the river. Now, historic ships offer day trips and overnight excursions up and down the river. The city has been totally revitalized and is now the number one tourist attraction in Iowa.
- 2003 – opened the new aquarium with newly expanded Mississippi River Historical Museum
- Soon replicated steamboats arrived to offer tours of the river
- Followed by three replicated paddle boats that offered the same
- Two Queen Class riverboats offering dining, tours and overnight sleeping accommodation similar to the Delta Queen in New Orleans
- The huge influx of tourists funded a new hotel resort and casino and a large brewery was renovated and expanded to include a five-star restaurant
- Dozens of new shops, restaurants, and hotels were built to accommodate the new tourist traffic
- Old historic buildings and homes are being restored all over the city
- 2011 – new salt water aquarium added
- Dubuque is the number one tourist destination in Iowa
- Tourist impact on their economy has grown from $166,000,000 in 2002 to $303,000,000 in 2011
- Hotel tax revenues have soared from only $900,000 in 2002 to $2,200,000 in 2011
- IBM built a major call center that brought hundreds of jobs
- Old buildings were renovated to handle the new influx of IBM employees
- County tax revenues have been increased by over $550,000 pa
- State tax revenues have been increased by over $450,000 pa
- McGraw Hill and a major furniture manufacturer built a plant in Dubuque
- 2010 – new National River Center with a 3-D theater was added
Dozens of other cities have done the same – grown and prospered as a consequence of fostering similar projects. All were funded by private and corporate investment; not one has lost money and all have created new revenues, greatly improving the cities and producing hundreds of new jobs, schools, and businesses.
What did the successful cities do?
They anchored a world class aquarium on their underused waterfront property and placed ships and/or a Maritime Museum near the aquarium. New revenues poured in and other needed improvements were consequently funded. Jacksonville must follow their lead, and soon.
- Nationwide according to the AZA (Aquarium and Zoo Association) the average attendance to aquariums is 1,000,000 to 1,200,000 per annum
- This trend is not exclusive to America, but worldwide
- Jacksonville is facing a $65M budget deficit in 2013-2014 with little or no prospect of new revenues, only through major budget cuts and/or tax increases
- Tourism figures for Florida and Jacksonville:
- 2006; 88,857,000 visited Florida, only 3,600,000 visited Jacksonville (4.2%)
- 2009; 80,200,000 visited Florida, only 2,840,000 visited Jacksonville (2.1%)
- 2012; 88,553,000 visited Florida, only 3.250,000 visited Jacksonville (3.7%)
- The Prime Osborn Convention Center is too small and not configured to attract conventions plus it is isolated from downtown Jacksonville according to a 2007 report prepared by CS&L (Convention, Sports, and Leisure Research Co. International)