Alaska Sealife Center sees increase in attendance in May

Pilot, a stellar sea lion, is one of the featured attractions at the Alaska Sealife Center.
Pilot, a stellar sea lion, is one of the featured attractions at the Alaska Sealife Center.(KTUU)
Updated: Jun. 13, 2021 at 7:54 PM AKDT
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SEWARD, Alaska (KTUU) -There’s been no shortage of visitors to Seward’s Alaska Sealife Center since it reopened its doors to the public for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

A lot of the interest has centered around the new Rocky Coast Discovery Pools. The hands-on display is the first phase of the new 1,100 gallon exhibit.

“It’s awesome, my kids love it. They love touching all the animals, I guess they’re not animals, the sea life,” said Carlee Berry, who turned out to see the new exhibit. “It helps them learn. It helps them have a good experience with them and learn more about it.”

Visitors are not the only ones impressed by the new display.

“It’s more of a natural flow. You see how it kind of flows down into nice little bays going through,” said Sara Kirlin, a guide who lets people know what they see and touch. “We have a lot more animals, so we’re super excited for this new one.”

All of this happened on May 29, as the crew from Alaska’s News Source was among the 1,713 visitors to the Alaska Sealife Center that day. Operators now say that’s the largest crowd they’ve had for May in at least fifteen years, though they did not know that at the time.

“So when I see today, as busy as it is, as busy as a cruise ship day, it is powerful,” said Nancy Anderson, the development director for the Alaska Sealife Center.

It almost closed for good last year due to the pandemic, as the Sealife Center only offered virtual tours. That did not generate enough money to keep operating. However, donors came to the rescue when they raised 2 million dollars that will allow people to still see the sea creatures.

“These animals are essentially volunteers, bringing messages about what’s going on, what the species is experiencing out there in the wider world,” said Dr. Carrie Goertz, the Sealife Center’s Director of Animal Health.

More people are lining up to learn more about the creatures who call the Alaska Sealife Center home.

Meanwhile, visitors are encouraged to buy their tickets ahead of time to guarantee they will get in there. Operators say Saturdays are especially filling up fast, as some people who did not have a reservation recently had to wait two hours before they could get in the building. Masks are also required inside the Alaska Sealife Center.

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