Established in 1955, not only does the Gulfarium seek to provide family-oriented entertainment, they also have a hand in:
- Conservation and Research: The C.A.R.E. Center has treated 640 endangered sea turtles.
- Education: School field trips and hands-on experiences.
- Community enhancement: Pier and beach clean-up events.
To better suit their needs along with their role in the community, the Gulfarium is proposing to construct a new show stadium and dolphin encounter pool/building on approximately 2.24 acres in the northwest corner of the 11.84 acre.
The Dolphin Exhibit project consists of three primary dolphin habitats (pools):
- Show pool
- Exhibit pool
- Encounter pool
The existing show stadium, which has an occupancy of 500 people, will be closed and replaced with a new attraction in the future. The proposed show stadium will have an occupancy of 480 people and include stadium-style seating areas with overhead shade canopies.
The existing dolphin encounter pool will be demolished during construction but replaced with an encounter pool to accommodate the same number of guests.
The Exhibit pool includes a large split level underwater viewing area.
In addition to the primary habitats, there are three back-of-house holding pools.
- There are two (2) new buildings that contain the Life Support Systems for the animal habitats (pools) and an “Encounter building” that provides restrooms, changing rooms and gear storage facilities for park guests.
One unique thing: Because the project will require moving around a lot of sand on a limited lot size, there isn’t really a good place to stockpile the sand. Choctaw Engineering, Inc. has requested that they be allowed to temporarily remove the sand from the site and store it in a location off of Okaloosa Island.
- According to Elliot Kampert, Growth Management Director for Okaloosa County, the project make note of how much sand has been taken off, and verify that the same exact sand and volume is brought back to the site for final grading and landscaping.
“I’m pretty sure that my kids know nothing about what I do in this job, but when they find out that I helped save the dolphins, they are going to actually think this is a cool job,” said Commissioner Nathan Boyles during the meeting. “So I’m super excited.”