MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — The Mystic Aquarium made a major announcement which is key to its survival.
With the Belugas in the background, Mystic Aquarium announced a $31.5 million restructuring plan which keeps it afloat.
“Allows us to not only survive through this pandemic but to thrive,” announced Dr. Stephen Coan, President and CEO of Mystic Aquarium.
The plan eliminates $14.5 million in long-term debt by working with banks. The aquarium also raised more than $10 million in private donations, and a $7 million line of credit for working capital will be provided by the state.
“And that’s a loan,” said Dr. Coan. “That’s working capital to allow us move through this pandemic.”
From March 17 through July 1, 2020, the aquarium was closed while still needing to spend $1.5 million a month to care for the animals. It is now at 50 percent visitor capacity. Ticket sales account for 80 percent of the operating expenses.
“It’s a loan over 20 years,” said Gov. Ned Lamont, (D) Connecticut. “You don’t have to pay any interest for the near term because everybody’s got to get back on their feet.”
A public/private partnership for the state’s largest attraction in a 19-billion dollar tourism industry.
“Tourism is 7 or 8 percent of our overall economy, we want to make sure the centerpiece for our tourist economy continues to be alive and thrive for the next generation,” said David Lehman, Economic and Community Development Commissioner.
The aquarium gets 800,000 visitors a year. Sixty percent from out of state like Jamie Oakley, who is from Narragansett, Rhode Island.
“As a parent of three young children, I think it’s very important for Mystic to stay open,” said Oakley.
The well known Beluga whale Juno was actually paying attention all throughout the news conference. He had his head out of the water and he was listening to the whole thing.
The attention Juno gives visitors has become a major attraction for this major attraction.
News 8 asked Dr. Coan how the aquarium will avoid accumulating more debt like it did in the past.
“One of the challenges that the state has presented to us is to find new revenue sources,” said Coan.
For that they’ve gone digital including e-learning programs.