Launch - Coming Attractions - July 2018


The Georgia Aquarium’s “Expansion 2020” project will add a large saltwater gallery devoted to sharks with floor-to-ceiling acrylic windows. (Credit: Georgia Aquarium)

Georgia Aquarium Begins Work on $110 Million Expansion

by Keith Miller

The largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere is growing even bigger. The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, has embarked on a significant expansion that will add tens of thousands of square feet to the facility and will focus on creating a deeper appreciation for the important role sharks play in the world’s oceans. 

Slated to open in late fall of 2020, the project called “Expansion 2020” until an official name is chosen, will also boast a redesigned main entrance, in addition to a large new saltwater gallery devoted to sharks. The aquarium says the saltwater gallery will feature floor-to-ceiling acrylic windows providing guests with a close-up and personal view of the awe-inspiring animals. Adding hammerheads, sand tiger sharks, and sandbar sharks are under consideration.

There will also be a number of animal interactions, providing guests the opportunity to get even closer to the imposing creatures. 

When announcing the expansion, President and Chief Operating Officer Joseph Handy noted the Georgia Aquarium has always done things big, and 12 years after opening, it is still holding true to that. Playing off a famous line from the blockbuster shark movie “Jaws,” he quipped, “We can safely say, ‘Georgia, you’re going to need a bigger aquarium!’”

Jessica Fontana, the aquarium’s director of communications, says the new exhibit area will concentrate on sharks because of the stigma surrounding the animals. 

“Many species of sharks are threatened, and many of those threats come from humans—overfishing, bycatch, and shark finning,” she says. “We want our guests to see these animals and hopefully change the misperceptions that many people have about sharks and educate a new generation about how important sharks are to our ocean’s ecosystems.” 


The Georgia Aquarium’s expansion will add tens of thousands of square feet to its facility, which will feature a redesigned main entrance. (Credit: Georgia Aquarium)

The Georgia Aquarium is again working with PGAV Destinations to help plan and implement the expansion. The aquarium previously worked with PGAV on other expansions and small exhibits. According to Fontana, the aquarium’s animal care teams will also play a significant role in designing guest interaction opportunities. They’ll ensure the experiences not only benefit the guests but are safe and enriching for the animals. 

A temporary entrance to the Georgia Aquarium is slated to open in September 2018, allowing crews to begin work on the addition while the aquarium stays open.

The Georgia Aquarium anticipates Expansion 2020 will cost an estimated $110 million. As a nonprofit entity, portions of ticket proceeds go to the aquarium’s research and conservation efforts, operations, and enhancements like Expansion 2020. For the first time in its history, the aquarium will seek funding from key partners and agencies for support of the endeavor. In the near future, information on how guests can personally get involved will also be made available.