Georgia flips for dolphin center

By: 
Jan. 6, 2011

Georgia Aquarium Annual Pass members will be allowed to visit the Marineland for free.

The Georgia Aquarium has purchased Marineland, the historic marine park located near the town of Marineland, officials announced Monday.
 

The Georgia Aquarium, located in Atlanta, opened in 2005 and is the world’s largest aquarium. Jim Jacoby, the past owner of Marineland, has been on the Board of Directors for the Georgia Aquarium.
 

The acquisition of Marineland is part of a long-term strategy to expand the aquarium throughout the Southeastern U.S., according to a press release on the Georgia Aquarium’s website.
 

Despite the purchase, however, officials said there are no immediate plans to change the day-to-day operations of the historic park.
 

“What we hope to do is not only preserve the heritage and history of Marineland, but to leverage the assets of both the Georgia Aquarium and Marineland to make both organizations stronger,” President and Chief Operating Officer David Kimmel said Monday in a statement.
 

Kimmel didn’t say how much the aquarium paid for Marineland, but the Jacksonville Business Journal reported the sale price to be $9.1 million.
 

Town of Marineland Mayor Jim Netherton speculated Tuesday that the Marineland center could be used as an adjunct facility for the aquarium and possibly feature more than dolphins.
 

“They can use (Marineland) for collecting specimens for growing animals before moving them to Georgia,” Netherton said. “They probably see Marineland being the farm team for the Georgia Aquarium.”
 

Netherton added that Marineland will now be a 501c3 corporation, which will take the property off the county tax rolls but won’t affect the operating budget for the town of Marineland.
 

County Commissioner Milissa Holland said she’s excited about the purchase and said the aquarium is offering its annual pass members a free pass to Marineland, as well.
 

“Marineland has always been a significant asset to our marketing efforts,” she said.
 

Marineland opened in 1938 as Marine Studios, and was originally used to film underwater sequences for movies.
 

The Georgia Aquarium has more than 8.5 million gallons of water; it houses more than 100,000 animals of 500 different species in fresh water. The aquarium was built on a 20-acre site and was funded mostly by a donation of $250 million by Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot
 

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.