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In a dramatic shift in tone, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s updated plans for a new aquarium downtown feature less showmanship and more rehab and rescue.

Gone from the plans is a proposed stadium with 2,000 seats for tourists to take in dolphin shows. Instead, the updated plans, unveiled Friday, feature dolphin habitats and behind-the-scenes tours of animal operating rooms.

Overall, the new design has a much heavier focus on the aquarium’s longtime mission of rescuing and rehabilitating marine mammals, and ultimately releasing them back into the wild.

CMA also says its new facility will cost $68 million to build, a steep drop from the previous sticker price of $160 million.

This comes at a crucial time for the aquarium, with the Dolphin Tale movie sequel coming out in weeks, an upcoming bid for Pinellas County bed tax dollars and a major fundraising effort that’s just now getting off the ground.

Friday’s announcement came at the current aquarium, which has outgrown its location in a former sewage treatment plant near Clearwater Beach. Clearwater’s mayor and two previous mayors were present, as well as a crowd of business and tourism officials.

Although no one in the room said so, the new aquarium’s shift in focus could help blunt any animal-rights criticism that might get aimed its way.

Orlando’s SeaWorld theme park is facing plunging stock prices and controversy over its killer whale shows in the wake of the 2013 documentary film Blackfish, which takes a highly critical look at the treatment of marine animals in parks like SeaWorld.
Reposted from @olivialovesorcas

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