Morro Bay Aquarium

Morro Bay Aquarium

Moving Forward in Morro Bay!

UPDATED: February 27, 2020

NEXT STEP IN THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS: An Architectural and Exhibit Concept Plan.

NEXT UPDATE TO THE COMMUNITY: Tuesday, March 10, Morro Bay City Council Meeting.

Thanks to community donors, including Cal Poly's Center for Coastal Marine Sciences, CCA fully funded the development of a concept design plan that will show the community what a new aquarium will look like both inside and outside on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay. These concept drawings and presentations will be the basis for all future planning and are designed to be flexible throughout the development process.

The final product will include: plans, elevations, isometrics, animal life support schematics and schedules, preliminary tank drawings, building infrastructure requirements, “look and feel” drawings of exhibit space, and cost estimate for the build out.

The total amount raised to create these documents was $38,200. Tenji Aquarium Systems, Inc. has submitted the bid for the aquarium design portion ($19,000). RRM Design, Inc. has submitted the bid for the architectural design portion ($19,200).

CCA will present the Morro Bay Aquarium Architectural and Exhibit Design Concept Plan to the City of Morro Bay at the City Council Meeting on Tuesday, March 10. Meeting begins at 5:30pm at the Vet's Hall, 209 Surf Street, Morro Bay. Watch the City's website for a link to the March 10 Staff Report with information about the Morro Bay Aquarium Concept Design Plan. It will be posted when the report is released the week before the meeting. City Council agenda documents can be found at

For more information, please contact Christine Johnson, Executive Director, Central Coast Aquarium, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 805-595-7280, extension 1002.

Morro Bay Aquarium Expansion Project Background

For 25 years, the Central Coast Aquarium (CCA), located in Avila Beach, has been providing unique hands-on learning opportunities to children and adults in the fields of Marine Biology and Oceanography, as well as local history. The mission of the CCA is to cultivate a community dedicated to ocean stewardship through education, engagement, and action. The Central Coast Aquarium is a 501c3 non-profit organization (Tax ID number is 77-0479110).

In the fall of 2013, the City of Morro Bay issued a request for proposals for the complete redevelopment of the Morro Bay Aquarium on waterfront lease sites 69-70/69W-70W. As a result of that process, the City, CCA and Cal Poly’s Center for Coastal Marine Sciences proposed a public-private partnership for the purpose of collaborating on a redevelopment project for a new, state-of-the-art, public aquarium and marine science education research center in Morro Bay. In May 2016, the City approved a Consent of Landowner agreement with the CCA and set compliance dates.

The City of Morro Bay extended the compliance dates on the agreement to allow CCA to fundraise for the economic feasibility study--the first step in the development process. CCA is grateful to the nearly 50 donors who helped to raise the $44,000 needed for the study including $10,000 from the City of Morro Bay economic development funds and $4,000 through a SLO County Community Programs Grant. The balance of $30,000 was raised from private donors in the community.

The Morro Bay Aquarium Market and Economic Feasibility Study was shared with the public on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 as an agenda item during the Morro Bay City Council Meeting. The feasibility study revealed that all non-profit aquariums require funding beyond their earned revenue potential. Yet, a future Morro Bay project has the potential to earn more than the average aquarium’s earned revenue given the unique factors to the site in Morro Bay as detailed in the study. The study revealed that this project is not feasible if it carries debt. Therefore, the option of utilizing a USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan to finance a new facility, that had been previously discussed, is no longer a viable option.

Following CCA's presentation of the Feasibility Study's results on March 12, the City Council made a unanimous decision to move forward in partnership with the Central Coast Aquarium and Cal Poly into the fundraising stage to develop a new marine science education center with a public aquarium. The partners have agreed to a one-year timeline to generate philanthropic interest in this project. Support from the City will likely be in the form of land lease support and assistance with the development process. Cal Poly will explore how an aquarium facility, including dock space, in Morro Bay could support teaching and research for Cal Poly's Center for Coastal Marine Sciences.

Please see the information above for the latest update on the status of this project.

To read the City of Morro Bay staff report about the Aquarium project, Click Here.

To read the Economic Feasibility Study on its own, Click Here.

For more information or to donate, please contact Christine Johnson, Executive Director, Central Coast Aquarium, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 805-595-7280, extension 1002. Donate Today!