BioPark Aquarium waiting for green light from state to reopen

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Many museums in New Mexico are entering their second week of being open under the public health order which has some people wondering why Albuquerque’s Aquarium at the BioPark is still closed.

The Aquarium said it was ready to open when museums got the ‘okay’ to open with limited capacity starting on September 15 but quickly learned aquariums were not included in that amendment.

“We’re still waiting for the green light, but we’re absolutely ready,” Stephanie Stowell, Acting Director of the BioPark said. “We’ve got the staff, we have the plan, we have the cleaning supplies, we have all the stanchions. So, we’re really ready, we’re just waiting for the thumbs up.”

While closed, Stowell said they’ve fine-tuned their reopening plan and submitted it to the state. She said the aquarium did present some ‘unique’ challenges in terms of reopening.

“One is just the size of the building and the way people move throughout the building…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, we think we’ve arrived at the right number and we’re going to be watching the minute we reopen to see if we can either increase or if we need to decrease that number,” Stowell said. “But there’s just lots of opportunities to stop and look at amazing animals and we want to make sure people have the opportunity to do so but also maintain their social distancing.”

When it is allowed to reopen, the Aquarium will do timed-ticketing allowing 30 people every half hour. Stowell said there will not be more than 60 guests in the building at one time. The touch pools and touch-screen displays will be closed. The movie theater at the aquarium will also be closed.

There will also be signage showing guests the one-way route to follow throughout the building during their visit. The aquarium is also putting up stanchions to keep people from touching the glass tanks and minimize the amount of high-touch areas.

One thing that will be new for guests is the way ticketing works. BioPark Zoo or Botanic Garden tickets will not grant access to the aquarium. Those tickets will be sold separately.

“The BioPark is pretty expansive, we can let a lot of people into the outdoor spaces. When we think about indoor spaces… it’s a much smaller number of people. So, if you’re coming to the zoo, you’re coming to the botanic gardens, the chances of getting into the indoor spaces will be quite a bit small,” Stowell said.

However, a ticket to the aquarium can also be used for the Botanic Garden. Once the aquarium gets the green light to open, the BioPark said it will also be able to open the indoor exhibits at the zoo like the Penguin Chill and the reptile house.

“We’re ready, the animals are ready, the staff is really excited. Because that’s their passion right? It’s talking about these animals and seeing our guests and our community interact with them in the space. So, we’re all thrilled, we can’t wait and we’re really ready for the community to come back to the aquarium,” Stowell said.

KRQE News 13 reached out to the governor’s office to see when aquariums might be able to open and it sent this in a statement:

“We’re glad to hear that they are preparing in a safe way. If and when the state is able to reach a point where more close-contact indoor activities are safe, we’ve got to be as ready as we can be. While we don’t have a date to give you right now – the state’s ability to do that is entirely dependent on the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19 throughout New Mexico and additional reopenings will continue to be considered as we move forward.”

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