NEW ORLEANS — People in New Orleans will once again be able to see penguins, sharks, and sea otters at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. After closing in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, aquarium officials said their doors will reopen Thursday morning.
"When we closed our facility in March, we were just going into our busiest time of year," said Audubon Nature Institute Chief Operating Officer Kyle Burks.
Burks said he estimates the aquarium lost about $21 million in income with what they expect to be a nearly 80% decrease in visitors this year. Thursday, they'll be prepared to allow up to 100 people into the downtown aquarium every 30 minutes.
"That's much less than 25% of our capacity. On a given day, we can see thousands of people through here. This modification, we're happy to do it because it will keep people safe, but it's going to feel very wide open in the aquarium when you're here," he said.
Guests, including members, must make their reservations in advance online.
"We've already sold a ton of tickets. The first day we had them up available we sold over a thousand tickets," Burks said.
When visitors arrive Thursday, they'll see physical distancing signage and markers on the ground. The gift shop will be touchless, and there will be a modified concessions facility.
Guests will be required to wear their masks during their entire visit. More hand sanitizer stations have also been installed throughout the facility.
High touch areas like the stingray touch pool, parakeet point, and indoor playground will remain closed.
You can read the full reopening guidelines here.