Ted Nesi over at WPRI just posted some analysis on Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Moffitt’s proposed aquarium. An aquarium in Rhode Island rivaling the Georgia Aquarium, in Atlanta, in size has been a cornerstone of the Moffitt campaign. Moffitt has even gone so far as to set up a non-profit for the project, and has some rudimentary renderings of a possible building.
Moffitt states, “In its four years in operation, the [Georgia] aquarium has brought in 12 million visitors, pumped $4 billion into the local [Atlanta] economy and spun off 50 new businesses. Moffitt foresees a larger aquarium on Aquidneck Island or, perhaps, in East Providence.”
Nesi in his analysis pokes holes in Moffitt’s claims on the economic impact of the Georgia Aquarium on Atlanta, which are well worth following the link over to read, but his final conclusion is what we’re talking about here:
Long story short, if Moffitt wants his aquarium to have the same impact as Atlanta’s, he’d better plan to locate it in a major regional capital city and surround it with three professional sports teams, a top global news organization and a huge public park. I’m not sure if Aquidneck Island or East Providence fit the bill.
It is likely a safe bet that an aquarium in Rhode Island would have some sort of positive economic impact on the region. Would I base my gubernatorial campaign on the idea? Probably not. And I’m not really seeing how the state at this time could focus on such an endeavour, Moffitt suggests the aquarium would cost $500 million. Certainly the state doesn’t have $500 million lying around.
I’d be all for the state doing what it can to help a non-profit or some other entity raise the funds for an aquarium, so long as it was in a place that would maximize the economic impact. As Ted says, Aquidneck Island or East Providence are not those places. The Dynamo House might be though.
If we wanted an aquarium rivaling the size of the one in Georgia, we’d need the Dynamo House plus a substantial addition to it. Though we don’t necessarily need one that huge, the New England Aquarium would likely fit nicely inside the Dynamo House shell for instance.
With SBE&R having pulled out of Rhode Island, the Dynamo House’s future is very much in flux. Dynamo is not situated amongst three professional sports teams or the headquarters of a global news organization. It is however next to a proposed waterfront park, on the route of a proposed streetcar line, up the block from the extant Children’s Museum, and in the heart of the next great development frontier in Rhode Island.
If Mr. Moffitt is serious about his aquarium, this is where I think it should be.