The Long Beach City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to authorize a $5 million loan requested by the Aquarium of the Pacific due to financial hardships being faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Jan. 30, the Aquarium of the Pacific reopened its outdoor exhibits in accordance with public health guidelines. At this time, the aquarium has reduced visitor capacity by requiring guests to schedule their free visiting reservation on its website.
As the pandemic continues to financially affect businesses, the Aquarium of the Pacific has lost “between $600,000 to $1.1 million depending on COVID-19 closures and restrictions,” according to the Long Beach Post.
As stated in the city legislation, the proposed loan is intended to be “drawn on monthly for cash as needed to pay for operating and maintenance costs” and “to allow the corporation to be able to pay the rent due to the city in October 2021.”
Though the Aquarium of the Pacific determined it needed a loan between $1.2 million to $10 million, the city felt that the “range of $1.2 million to $5 million seems more likely.”
Councilwoman Cindy Allen showed her support for the proposed loan and discussed how the aquarium would pay back the allocated amount.
“I definitely don’t want the aquarium to default on any of their expenses,” Allen said. “They will pay the city back over a maximum of 13 years, and in fact they’ll pay us a little interest too.”
Allen said she spoke with Aquarium of the Pacific CEO Peter Kareiva, who “explained the need for consistent operations by key experienced staff that are caring for the endangered species,” and how “even without visitors the animals and ecosystems must be maintained.”
While the short-term loan is intended to keep the aquarium preserved and protected, Allen believes the money will be repaid “once the aquarium is allowed to fully reopen.”
Councilwoman Suzie Price also voiced her support for the item, but also voiced the concerns regarding the Tidelands Area Fund.
“For many years there was a belief that the Tidelands Fund was positive, secure and stable,” Price said. “It’s important for us to be mindful every time we leverage this fund our efforts to provide equity and access to the coast.”
In addition, Price also acknowledged the progress being made by the aquarium due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.
“I wholeheartedly support the aquarium’s efforts and want to make sure that I’m acknowledging and commending them on the progress that they’ve made in light of the COVID limitations,” Price said.
The Long Beach City Council will reconvene via teleconference next Tuesday, March 16 at 5 p.m.