Creative fundraising keeps Honolulu Aquarium afloat

Published: Apr. 6, 2016 at 8:19 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 6, 2016 at 10:41 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

At 112 years young, the Waikiki Aquarium is still attracting over 300,000 visitors a year. 

But those numbers are declining, and state funding has remained at $600,000 per year since 2004. That's led the aquarium, the second-oldest in the nation, to get creative with how it attracts new revenue.

"Almost half of revenues are from gate receipts. Still, that leaves a sizeable hole to fill in the $3.2 million annual operating budget," said Aquarium Director Andrew Rossiter. 

So Rossiter is adamant that all new hires have grant writing experience. And 18 months ago, the aquarium started hosting luaus.

While there have been critics, no one can argue with the success of the venture.

"We're in the black, we're breaking even," he said. "To be honest, if it were not for the facility rental events, we'd be about $300,000 in the hole."

The creative fundraising could provide insight to the nearby Honolulu Zoo, which lost its national accreditation last month over concerns about its lack of consistent funding. 

Rossiter says a big cash influx would help the aquarium install new exhibits, which could drive attendance and revenues. The best way for the public to help? Become an aquarium member.

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