TN Aquarium at 25: Boasts 23 Million Guests, Boosts 3 Billion into Economy


Chattanooga, TN (WDEF) – In the 25 years since opening day, the Tennessee Aquarium has become a cornerstone to the Chattanooga experience, while boosting the local economy along the way.

First-year attendance in 1992 was projected to reach a high of 650,000 visitors. “That we’ve managed to consistently exceeded that initial expectation by such a wide margin for so many years is remarkable,” says Keith Sanford, the Aquarium’s President.

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In 2016, more than 745,000 guests came to Chattanooga to see the feisty otters, giant catfish, playful penguins, mesmerizing jellyfish and much more. “That popularity reflects our long-standing commitment to offering a memorable, compelling experience that continues to improve,” Sandford says.

According to a recent impact study conducted by the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sustainable Business and Development, that improvement extended throughout Hamilton County, with more than $3 billion that has fueled the local economy since the scenic-city welcomed the popular tourist attraction.

“The economic power of the Aquarium is undeniable and the entire Chattanooga community has benefited tremendously from its presence on the waterfront,” says John Phillips, one of the founding board members.

Research also shows the average family visiting the Aquarium today spends $717 on their multi-day trip to Chattanooga, compared to day-trip spending of $169.

Along with $5 billion invested in the downtown area since its arrival on the waterfront, Aquarium guests paid more than $189 million in state and local taxes, which helped pay for essential civic services, from public schools and road construction to police and fire service.

To learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium, click