Iconic Stanley Park tourist attraction Vancouver Aquarium has hired close to 100 new employees and is set to reopen later this month, new executive director Clint Wright told BIV.
He has not yet set the launch date, and operating hours, but exhibits, such as sea lions, sea otters, fish tanks and an Amazon tropical gallery with snakes, will be on display, he said.
Wright said that he expected to make an official announcement next week.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the facility to shut in March, 2020. It reopened several months later but announced in late August that it would indefinitely close its doors to the public on Sept. 7.
The specter of potential insolvency swirled while executives sought government support, and marketed the aquarium's business to potential private-company acquirers.
U.S.-based tourism and entertainment company Herschend Enterprises bought the aquarium for an undisclosed amount in April.
The company also owns theme parks, such as Dolly Parton’s Dollywood and the Harlem Globetrotters. It also owns two other aquariums: the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky and the Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey.
Herschend Enterprises made some executive changes.
"Ocean Wise, the global conservation organization has separated from Vancouver Aquarium," said Wright.
Former Vancouver Aquarium CEO Lasse Gustavsson previously also headed Ocean Wise. Gustavsson remains as Ocean Wise's president and CEO, but Ocean Wise is no longer based at the aquarium, said Wright, who was previously the Vancouver Aquarium's COO.
The aquarium in September laid off more than 200 people, but Wright said the organization was able to keep "just under 100 people" on site to take care of animals and perform other tasks.
Its recent hiring blitz stemmed from a July 24 job fair that saw about 80 attendees sent home with job offers, Wright said.
"We're very close to being fully staffed," he said.
"We still need a few line cooks, but otherwise I think we're very well staffed."
Initial site capacity will depend on how many galleries are open, but it could be more than 1,000 people.
"We'll start slowly and see how it goes," he said.
Adult admission tickets are expected to be about $40, which would be similar to what they were pre-pandemic.
Since Herschend Enterprises took over, and added more certainty to the organization, Wright's team has been focused on increasing site maintenance.
"With the loss of cetaceans, with legal action, with deciding what to do, and then COVID-19 on top of that, a lot of maintenance got deferred," he said.
"Herschend have really been putting resources in to get a lot of that deferred maintenance taken care of."
Wright would not hazard a guess for when the attraction could break even, much less be profitable.
"We've been burning money since we were closed in September, and that continues," he said. "In fact, it's going at an upped pace right now because we're getting ready to be open. So we're hiring lots more people. We're doing lots of repairs, we're enhancing the exhibits."