HARTFORD, CT (STL.News) Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced today the completion of a $31.5 million public-private restructure and investment in Mystic Aquarium that will assist the popular southeastern Connecticut tourist destination to continue operations following the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Under the restructure, Mystic Aquarium has raised more than $10 million from private donors and eliminated $14.5 million in long-term debt. The State of Connecticut will make available a $7 million line of credit for working capital, and the plan calls for Mystic Aquarium to replace the state funding with private capital following recovery from COVID-19.
“This is a great deal for Connecticut,” Governor Lamont said. “This is an investment in one of our treasured assets, and which the state leveraged its support to get significant investment from the private sector, including debt forgiveness and incredible support from the philanthropic community. Like the hundreds of thousands who visit Mystic Aquarium each year, I am in awe every time I walk through the gates. It is not only a destination – it is an education and conservation center. This plan assures that Mystic Aquarium will prosper and continue to provide social and economic benefit to the citizens of Connecticut.”
Mystic Aquarium, one of the largest tourist attractions in Connecticut and a centerpiece of the state’s $18 billion annual tourism economy, had a yearly attendance of 800,000 people pre-COVID, and serves 100,000 students in the state with distance learning and other education programs. It is home to 5,000 animals, including endangered and threatened marine mammals. The facility closed to the public on March 17 and reopened on July 1.
“Mystic Aquarium worked diligently to raise an impressive amount of private donations from its board and other donors and to work with its banks on a global solution in which the state was one of many partners,” Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman said. “This is a model for economic development in COVID-19 and beyond with shared public-private investment.”
“We are appreciative of Governor Lamont and Commissioner Lehman, state and federal leaders, board donors, and new donors for an incredibly collaborative approach to positioning Mystic Aquarium for the future,” Dr. Stephen M. Coan, president and CEO of Mystic Aquarium, said.
Congressman Joe Courtney, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Senator Chris Murphy assisted Aquarium officials in reaching agreement with key partners.
“Mystic Aquarium’s future is absolutely key to the vitality of Southeastern Connecticut and the State,” Congressman Courtney said.
“Marking this profoundly important achievement, I salute the state’s lifeline financial assistance to the Mystic Aquarium – one of the nation’s premier research and education institutions,” Senator Blumenthal said. “This aid helps sustain a cultural treasure – a vital destination that drives jobs and economic vitality in the region and entire state. Having assisted in this team effort, I will continue to advocate more federal funding for our recreational and tourist attractions that have suffered financial distress because of the pandemic. I thank Governor Lamont and his team for their leadership, and Steve Coan and all the Mystic Aquarium staff, volunteers, and supporters.”