by Alen Baker
The museum has had wonderful attendance in the past two years in Bryson City...More than 15,000 visitors in 2017. We have made some adjustments to better use the space in the first building and we are pretty much at exhibit capacity. There are many exhibits in storage pending setup in the second building. We are at a point of calm before the storm. I know the Chamber is working on their end to be ready.
To date, we have raised 90% of the funds needed to setup the aquariums. We still need at least two $5,000 sponsors for the final tanks planned. However, this need will not prevent us from opening once we get everything we have purchased so far in place.
It is important for everyone involved, both board and sponsors, to know the current status and the sequence we will be following to get the aquariums up and operating as well as expanding the exhibits into the next building.
The initial order of the largest 5 custom tanks was placed and paid for in early June. 3 tanks form the mountain stream, 1 tank and metal stand is for the hellbenders and the 5th tank is a 6' x 6' 800 gallon tank to handle larger species of fish. These tanks are custom made of very, very thick, tempered glass by Custom Tanks in Wisconsin. We will need a fork lift outside and a pallet jack inside to move and place these heavy tanks on their stands. These 5 tanks were ordered together, giving us a full tractor-trailer load and with free shipping.
We needed them all up front and in place anyway before we can bring in the other tanks and do the final build. The room is 1000 square feet and is laid out to maximize the capacity for fish exhibits. The mountain stream is over 2500 gallons comprised of 3 larger tanks and a waterfall reservoir tank on the second floor. The other tanks in the room will bring the total capacity at over 6000 gallons among a total of 16 tanks. We will be able to exhibit as many as 60 species of fish at the same time. The room is laid out to hopefully blow visitor away and make them want to return again and again. The aquariums will have a small admissions charge and the revenue will fully fund all museum operations hence forth.
Unfortunately, the initial order is now long overdue for delivery. We know the glass tempering has been the holdup and we expect to have a delivery date soon. Once the first 5 tanks are in place, we have purchased all the components to build the mountain stream and expect to have it operational ready before year-end. We also expect to have the Living Wall tank in place and operational ready at the same time.
The hellbender tank will be ready soon after since it is dependent on erecting the north wall of tanks (which cannot be started until the mountain stream is in place). During the winter we will complete the construction, barn wood finishing and have all the tanks in place except the two remaining to be sponsored (unless we find sponsors in the coming months - currently talking to Curtis Fleming - Fly Rod Chronicles, Al Parsons - Nantahala Brewery and others at present for partial or full sponsorships). One tank will be collectively sponsored by businesses and individuals ($1000 - Platinum, $500 - Gold, $250 - Silver, $100 - Bronze).
We plan a soft opening on March 27-28 (same weekend as the next Museum Hall of Fame Event) depending on how well the build goes. Each tank needs about 30 days running before fish may be added for display. We have Jon Smith on board working on the supply of fish from agencies, etc. Chris Holler is working on the hellbender permits (we have two young hellbenders reserved in the Dallas, Texas rearing facility). Upscale Aquatics is leading the designing and building the aquariums.