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Detroit Free Press
Detroit's aquarium closes after 101 years

April 4, 2005, 4:36 AM

DETROIT (AP) -- Hundreds of visitors have turned out to say goodbye to the Belle Isle Aquarium, which has closed after 101 years because of a municipal budget deficit.

"This is sickening," Marion Morris of Ypsilanti said on the aquarium's final day Sunday. She said the closing would discourage people from coming to Detroit.

The Detroit Zoological Institute, which owns the aquarium, announced the planned closure in January. The plans sparked a grass-roots movement to save the facility, which opened in 1904 and was designed by noted architect Albert Kahn.

City officials have said that the aquarium closing will save about $530,000 a year.

Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium continues working to save the facility and is pushing the city to let it lease the building as a nonprofit organization.

The group has landed several big donations, including $10,000 from Yazaki North America and $2,500 from the Greektown Casino, The Detroit News said. A weekend benefit raised $15,000, while about $25,000 has been pledged by businesses and individuals.

Interest in the aquarium has declined over the years. In 1995, 113,000 people visited the aquarium at Belle Isle, the city's island park. In 2000, attendance fell to 86,000, and 56,000 people visited last year.

"This is our public, affordable gem," Karen Twomey, a member of the group, told the Detroit Free Press and pointed to a line of visitors waiting to get inside Sunday. "And these people represent dollars. I think this tells our elected officials where we stand."


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