After more than three months since owner Mark Hall closed his doors at the old Biomes building in Shady Lea, New England's largest private aquarium is officially open at its new location on Post Road.
Initially, Hall anticipated to close the old building and open the new facility successively. Unfortunately, fire and building code updates forced back the building’s grand opening by more than two months.
– and with a much different look. The new facility – the former home of Gable House Furniture – boasts about 10,000 sq. ft. of space, which is decidedly much larger than its old building at just 1,700 sq. ft.
The added space also means more (and bigger) exhibits. Amongst the nearly 80 exhibits in the new building is a bigger track for Darwin (the desert tortoise and fan favorite), tracks for hermit crab races, a giant mangrove tank and bigger tanks for Biomes’ sharks. According to Hall, the bigger tanks allow the sharks to grow larger. (Don’t worry, they won’t be getting to Jaws size.)
Another new feature is the commercial fisheries exhibit, which helps educate visitors on the fishing process. Though the exhibit is still under construction, one of its key features is showcasing the function of a lobster pot.
“People see those buoys out in the water and know there’s a lobster pot below the surface,” said Hall. “What they don’t know is what’s happening at the end of the rope.”
Another new feature that may not be as flashy as the shark tank of the hermit crab races is what’s inside each fish tank. Hall and other volunteers collected sand from more than 29 different beaches across the state to fill the tanks – including Plum Beach, 2nd Beach in Newport, Moonstone Beach and others – as part of the Rhode Island Arenology Project. According to Hall, it’s the largest collection of sand in an exhibit in the country.
The new year also brought a first for Biomes: its first day open when school was still in session. With the new building, Biomes now holds extended hours, open Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday through Friday noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays are reserved for private parties.
According to Hall, response to the new schedule has been good, thanks in part to Biomes’ Facebook activity. Throughout the process, Hall and company kept fans and visitors updated with the business’ Facebook page – which has more than 2,000 fans.
This new 10,000 sq. ft. building will be the “last stop” for Biomes.
“I never want Biomes to get any bigger than this because it diminishes the interaction,” said Hall, who takes pride in the “hands-on” experience that Biomes offers.