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The Alaska Sealife Center is in jeopardy of closing soon

A decision about closing the Sealife Center will happen October 1st.
(KTUU)
Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 8:33 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Sealife Center in Seward is in jeopardy of closing soon if it can't generate enough revenue by the end of the summer.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant a drastic reduction in visitors, which has impacted the center's bottom line.

A decision about closing the Sealife Center will happen on October 1st.

In the meantime, officials hope the public will come to the rescue.

"The truth is that if every Alaskan contributed $5 we would be in wonderful shape right now, Tara Reimer the President and CEO of the Alaska Sealife Center said. "So we're asking people to do what makes sense to them. That could be bringing your family to the Sealife Center that could be buying or renewing your membership."

Like many places in Alaska when the pandemic hit the center was forced to close temporarily, but the animals, more than 4,000, still had to be cared for and the expenses to run the building, including keeping the seawater pumps turned on continued.

But the revenue from visitors essentially dried up.

Reimer said that during a typical year the annual visitor attendance is 160,000. This year it will be closer to 40,000. Reimer says that more than 50 percent of the total revenues come from visitor operations.

The Sealife Center is a non-profit operation.

Reimer says the center is also asking the city of Seward for financial help, half a million dollars, which will be debated Monday evening.

Should the Sealife Center close Reimer says the building will be turned over back to the city and the animals will be sent to Outside facilities.

“The people who work at the Sealife Center put the animals first, Reimer said. “One of the things we’re trying to do is get everyone else to understand the importance of these animals. We are the only facility that responds to orphaned and injured animals, so for some animals, we’re their only hope of survival.”

The Sealife Center is the second-largest employer in Seward.

The Sealife Center was created, in part, because of a need to protect wildlife. After the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound it damaged shoreline and caused widespread harm to wildlife, the economy and the different ecosystems in the area. That event drew attention to a need for a facility to treat injured wildlife.

Construction began on May 1995.

The Sealife Center was also a favorite of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens who helped obtain a $14 million appropriation.

“We’re hoping really that everyone helps a little bit in their own way,” Reimer said.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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