NIAGARA FALLS N.Y. (WIVB) – The Aquarium of Niagara is anxiously awaiting its time to reopen and staff is already hard at work preparing a plan. There is currently no set date for reopening as it’s part of phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan.
“We want to make sure that things are safe for our three most important categories, staff, visitors and of course our animal collection,” Executive Director Gary Siddall said. “By taking the steps now in order to prepare for that we’re able to be to be in a good position when we finally get that green light.”
Siddall says it’s been tough having to temporarily close since 80 percent of its revenue comes from people who visit. The organization says every day they’re brainstorming ways to make sure people have a safe but fun experience.
“It’s all about planning,” he said. “So for us when it comes to getting ready for welcoming the public back, we want to make sure that we have all the preliminary work and the foundation in place in order to be really successful once we do reopen to the public.”
The Aquarium of Niagara is following the steps from other aquariums in the country that have already reopened. Siddall says one thing they’ve learned from other places is how they can reduce the amount of people inside the aquarium.
“What we’re doing right now is taking a look at what does capacity look like on a normal day and how do we reduce it down in an attempt to minimize risk for our staff and of course our visitors,” he said.
Besides limiting the amount of visitors, he says they are considering spacing out groups once inside.
“We’re looking at ways to encourage people to safely move through our exhibit galleries,” Siddall said. “You know one family per exhibit and there’s a lot of way we can take an innovative approach to doing so.”
The aquarium will require people wear face coverings and will have hand sanitizer available.
Siddall says they are looking forward to opening back up when Western New York reaches phase 4, and says it’s not just the staff looking forward to that day.
“As fascinated as we are by animals like seals, sealions, sharks and penguins those animals find us to be pretty interesting as well,” he said. “So they rely on that interaction just as much as we all do.”
Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.