City approves Clearwater Marine Aquarium expansion

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The Clearwater Marine Aquarium's expansion plans began to emerge Tuesday as it secured a necessary approval from the city's Community Development Review board. 

The CMA's presentation included rough drawings of an attraction that will grow from roughly 60,000 square feet to about 130,000 square feet. 

There are also plans for 440-space parking garage. The tanks where Winter and Hope, now-famous dolphins, will increase to 1.4 million gallons, compared to today's 500,000 gallons. 

Executive Director David Yates told FOX 13 News plans are still being finalized, but the project should cost less than $50 million.

Attendance rose to 800,000 people last year in the wake of two motion pictures featuring Winter and Hope and the work of the CMA. 

The animal rescue operation abandoned plans to build a new facility at a much greater price in downtown Clearwater, choosing instead to expand on the site it has occupied since 1976. 

Several residents objected to the expansion at Tuesday's public hearing, with most of them feeling the facility has outgrown the mostly-residential Island Estates. Other residents and business leaders spoke in favor of the CMA, and the city's staff recommended approval.