PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - For months, there's been talk about building an aquarium in the spot that's prime for development, in the heart of downtown Punta Gorda.
The seven-acre piece of land in the center of downtown has been referred to as a black hole, but Tom Kerr said he has a good idea of what could kick start development there: a 50,000-square-foot aquarium.
"We're starting to draw more people in through the airport, but we need another reason for people to come and stay," Kerr said.
Kerr is on the Charlotte Harbor Aquarium Committee. For the past six months, they've been working with a firm to determine if this 250,000-gallon idea could become a reality.
In a study released this week, the firm said this spot in downtown would be the perfect location, near US 41 and I-75, with plenty of parking and close to other attractions.
"The kids would have a blast!" Kelli Epps said, who was visiting for the day.
But the estimated building cost is between $32 million and $35 million, a price the committee would try to raise. As far as operation, the intention is to find a vendor who could run it independently.
"Mote operates its facility in Sarasota self sufficiently, so why not here?" City Manager Howard Kunik said.
"It would be really neat to have something like that, but I don't think we can do it, I don't think we have the infrastructure," said resident Mary Herbert.
The consulting firm estimates an aquarium that size would attract between 130,000 and 300,000 visitors every year. Committee members believe that given tourism in the area, annual attendance would be on the higher end of that scale.