CEO Tom Lang says as of March of this year, the Aquarium has raised more than $5 million dollars and is now just $700,000 shy of reaching its goal to begin the first phase.
"All of this money is going towards building the 6,000 square foot basement area of the Aquarium," said Lang. "The basement is going to house the life support systems, the quarantine tanks and the larval lab where we do all the water testing, raising of baby fish and other fun aquatic projects."
Over the Fourth of July weekend, a non-profit fireworks stand near the future site of the Aquarium on Grantland and Highway 99, donated close to $16,000 to help construct the Kyle's Kids Adventure Area at the aquarium. The interactive classroom and play area will be built in memory of Edison High School student, Kyle Runciman, who was killed in a plane crash in 2007 along with his stepfather.
Kyle's father told Action News, the sophomore student had a deep appreciation for the ocean and had dreamed of visiting the new underwater attraction once it was built.
"His stepfather was a big proponent of the aquarium and Kyle jumped onto that bandwagon big time," said Kyle's father, Jere Runciman. "When he was 10 years old, he got certified as a scuba diver with the hopes he'd be able to swim in the big tank and go swimming with the sharks and go cleaning from the inside and stuff. He wasn't happy with just being a docent at the aquarium."
Runciman said his son would marvel at the sight of twelve tanks donated by the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco, to help Valley families dive into the history of the San Joaquin River and explore the mysteries of the deep.
"It's really exciting," said Runciman.
Lang said the donations bring the overall total to more than 5 million dollars, just $700,000 shy of its goal to begin building.
"It's important people know the first phase of the aquarium will include half freshwater and half saltwater exhibits," he said. "Our wonderful architect, Arthur Dyson, looked at the tanks, looked at the dimensions and designed the building around these first 12 exhibits," said Lang.
He's hoping the new "buy a block" capital campaign will encourage new donors to take the plunge, placing their names on a plaque and becoming part of the building's physical foundation.
"This is the regular size block," he said. "The large block is twice the size. It's 16x16x8 and people can buy those for &200 or the regular block for $100."
He said the money will help bring the Fresno Aquarium and the legacy of Kyle Runciman to life by putting both native, freshwater species and oceanic creatures on display.
"It's going to tell the story of water here in our San Joaquin Valley and how that little drop of water starts in the Sierras and travels through our river systems into the San Francisco Bay and out into the ocean."
To learn more about the Future Fresno Aquarium or for more information on how to purchase a block, visit their website: www.fresnoaquarium.org.