ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska SeaLife Center has raised enough money to remain open through the winter after a revenue loss stemming from the coronavirus pandemic threatened to permanently shut its doors, an official said.
The attraction in Seward announced Wednesday that the funds will support continued operations at the center, which houses Alaska’s only marine mammal rescue program and serves as a North Pacific animal research hub.
President and CEO Tara Riemer said the center reached its fundraising goal of $2 million more than a month before a Sept. 30 deadline, although she added that the money does not guarantee its future.
"Meeting a $2 million goal just means we’re not permanently closing at the end of this season,” Riemer said. “Which is exciting for a lot of people, but it’s really not quite enough. It’s not enough to keep our mission project going like we want them to.”
The center also needs money to ensure consistency for research and educational programs that have been cut or reduced, Riemer said.
Another $1 million raised by the end of September would provide greater stability, Riemer said.
The response has been overwhelming from the community and companies that have matched donations, including firms in the struggling travel industry, she said.
Household memberships rose above 4,500 after more than doubling in the last six weeks, with about 85% purchased by Alaska residents. The highest membership number before the pandemic was 1,800, she said.
Visitor numbers have also increased since July, she said.
“We don’t have someone who’s basically supporting us or has our back — it’s the people of Alaska that have our back,” Riemer said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.