The City of Virginia Beach on Thursday bought 2.57 acres from the Navy as the first step toward creating a new Virginia Aquarium Marine Animal Care Center. The property is near the end of Bells Road off Owls Creek, across from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. The city paid $128,500.
“The Aquarium is one of the crown jewels of Virginia Beach, and this purchase will help make it even stronger,” said Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr. “We thank our partners in the Navy, who always stand ready to defend our country and help make Virginia Beach the great city it is.”
Capt. Bob Geis, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Oceana, said, “This is another example of the great partnership between the Navy and the city. Considering the many other property transactions the city has completed and is pursuing near NAS Oceana, which have helped to sustain Navy air operations and enhance the health and welfare of the citizens of Virginia Beach, the Navy was pleased to cooperate in the expansion of the Marine Animal Care Center, a compatible use per the Navy's Air Installation Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ) Program. We look forward to continuing our mutually beneficial relationship."
The Marine Animal Care Center, which is not a publicly visited building, provides operational support for the Aquarium. This includes providing animal holding and quarantine for exhibits, and serving as home base for educational outreach program animals as well as the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program. Director of Research & Conservation Mark Swingle said, “The current facility, in a leased building, is substandard in size and capabilities. For example, there is no holding space to house a large shark from the Aquarium, should it need to be treated for illness or isolated for pregnancy, and stranded animal autopsies must be conducted outdoors throughout the year.”
The new 18,000-square-foot center will cost about $13.7 million and is expected to open in mid-2018. The city will fund construction, while the nonprofit Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Foundation, through a capital campaign, will provide funding to equip the new facilities.
# # #