BioPark Aquarium reopening on hold due to health order

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – BioPark visitors excited to get in and see the sharks and otters Thursday will have to wait a little longer. The BioPark halted its aquarium reopening plans after determining it would violate the public health order. It’s not the first time the rules about that particular attraction have come into question.

It was exciting news for BioPark fans when the director announced this week, the state had approved their reopening plan for indoor spaces. That means exhibits like the Penguin Chill at the zoo and the BUGarium at the Botanic Garden will start welcoming visitors again on Thursday.

The aquarium was also expected to open, but it turns out that’s still not allowed. In a news release, the city said the following:

During the excitement of reopening indoor spaces and welcoming the public back to the BioPark, we, unfortunately, overlooked the fact that aquariums are not yet permitted to reopen per state health orders. We continue to look forward to the day the Aquarium can reopen and when our visitors can come see some exciting additions. We are committed to reopening our spaces in the safest way possible and appreciate the State’s continued guidance.

Dr. Shelle Sanchez, Director of Cultural Services Department

Aquariums are specifically listed in the public health order as ‘close contact recreational facilities’ alongside movie theaters, casinos, and interactive museums. According to the September 18 health order, those facilities still have to remain closed. KRQE News 13 talked to the BioPark last week and they said that was their understanding too, acknowledging there are some safety challenges.

“One is just the size of the building and the way people move throughout the building. And they want to stop and they want to watch the otters; they want to look at the sharks in the tank; they want to stop and look, so we really have to think about what’s that fine line, that dance that we can have people do when they come in, how many people can we let in safely,” said Stephanie Stowell on Sept. 21, acting director for the Albuquerque BioPark.

Staff ended up coming up with a plan, which they say they are ready to put into action whenever they do get that green light. Anyone who already bought tickets will automatically get refunded.

KRQE News 13 reached out to both the city and the state to find out how the mix up happened since it was said the governor approved the reopening plan days ago. A city spokesperson said the problem came to light during a conversation Wednesday with state officials but could not give details. kRQE News 13 did not hear back.

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