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Butterfly House in South Dakota to expand, rebrand

February 16, 2019
In this Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 photo, CEO Audrey Willard poses for a portrait in a corridor in the back of the aquarium where the tanks' life support systems take up much of the space, at the Butterfly House and Aquarium in Sioux Falls, S.D. Organizers with the Butterfly House and Aquarium are midway through a $7.5 million fundraising campaign to grow their space. (Patrick Anderson/The Argus Leader via AP)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — After spending years preparing for its next stage, the Sioux Falls Butterfly House and Aquarium is heading for a metamorphosis.

Organizers for the Sioux Falls center recently provided more details about their future plans and celebrated the midway-point of an ongoing fundraising effort.

The group’s $7.5 million campaign will nearly triple the size of its current facility in southern Sioux Falls, but the planned expansion also comes with a shift in focus and branding.

Eventually, when the money is raised and construction is finished, the group will shed its old name, Butterfly House and Aquarium, to become the Dakota Aquarium.

“We do plan on becoming more of a focus on the aquarium,” CEO Audrey Willard told the Argus Leader. “That’s what we see as a really special opportunity, especially for our landlocked kids that never get to see the ocean.”

If all goes to plan, the entire project will be finished by summer of 2021. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer on the first phase of the project, expanding the building’s office and storage space.

Since adding aquarium equipment six years ago and seeing a jump in interest among families in the Sioux Falls community, organizers for the Butterfly House and Aquarium have continued to re-examine the facility’s future, planning for a better way to meet a shift in demand.

The building at Sertoma Park had an average attendance of about 45,000 a year before adding the aquarium. Last year, its attendance reached about 87,000, Willard said.

The group already underwent a name change, leaving behind the old Sertoma namesake and transitioning from “Marine Cove” to “Aquarium” in its title.

Leaders were planning to move their operation downtown and sell the old property to the state. That plan fell through when state officials decided in 2017 they weren’t going to buy the land, Willard said.

Staying in its current location will allow the Dakota Aquarium to take advantage of the playgrounds and park nearby, Willard said.

The planned expansion would add to the existing structure on all four sides. It would increase the total space from 10,900 square feet to 27,000 square feet, with more space for offices and educational experiences.

The aquarium facilities would take up more than 10,000 square feet, and feature what Willard called the “building blocks in the ocean.”

The center would be able to expand its aquariums and tide pools filled with jellyfish and coral reef, adding more exhibits. The new aquarium will add features, including an octopus exhibit, a massive beach habitat called the Lagoonal Reef and an exhibit that provides a behind-the-scenes look at running the aquarium, designed to inspire future marine biologists.

The butterflies, meanwhile, aren’t going anywhere.

“The butterflies will always be a special part of who we are,” Willard said.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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