Progress to Date
Donors like you have enabled the nonprofit 501(c)(3) Aquarius Aquarium Institute to deliver quality educational programs throughout California's central San Joaquin Valley since our founding in 2000 by professional aquarists and aquarium business owners Tom and Aletha Lang of Fresno.
Thanks to our many Charter Members, Donors, Sponsors and Volunteers, the Institute has made significant progress on our plans to build an educational public Aquarium designed by world-renowned Fresno architect Arthur Dyson, A.I.A. on our 10-acre site (above) that was donated to our organization in August 2006 by Roy and Betty Jura, long-time Fresno-area fig farmers.
- 2001 - 2005 - Our first Capital Campaign - The Campaign for Special Gifts - exceeded all expectations. The campaign was launched to provide $750,000 in cash and in-kind support for the early governmental approvals of the Fresno Aquarium project. Forty-five very special individual and corporate contributors donated at levels above the regular Annual Charter Membership levels so the organization could meet the costs of planning, governmental fees and environmental studies required to ensure the project could be built where we wanted to build it. Arthur Dyson, A.I.A. designed a 100,000 sq. ft. Aquarium facility as the ultimate plan for the campus. During this time, we also secured our first exhibit sponsors.
- August 3, 2006 - Donations made it possible for the Institute to close escrow on its 10-acre site, a former sand and gravel mining and asphalt plant location along the San Joaquin River adjacent to Freeway 99 in Fresno, California. The property was generously donated to the Institute by the Roy and Betty Jura family after the Fresno Aquarium project completed all of its preliminary environmental studies and received the unanimous approval of the Fresno County Planning Commission.
- December 2008 - February 2009 - The California Academy of Science's Steinhart Aquarium generously donated 12 major exhibits and numerous life support systems and other aquarium equipment from its former Howard Street location in San Francisco to the Fresno Aquarium. Read more.
- 2009 - Arthur Dyson, A.I.A. began designing a smaller ~20,000 sq. ft. Phase One Fresno Aquarium incorporating all 12 of the donated Steinhart exhibits, to be located next to the future larger Aquarium, now identified as Phase Two.
- January 27, 2009 - The Fresno City Council voted unanimously to amend the City's 2025 General Plan to include the Fresno Aquarium property.
- April 15, 2009 - The City of Fresno received unanimous approval from the Fresno County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) to bring the Fresno Aquarium project into the City's adopted Sphere of Influence. This approval was required in order for us to extend City water and sewer lines to the Fresno Aquarium property in the future.
- 2010 - Arthur Dyson, A.I.A. completed the design of the Phase One Fresno Aquarium and the Institute began cost estimating.
- 2011 - The Institute worked to divide the Phase One Fresno Aquarium project itself into manageable parts and began value-engineering to bring down costs, but retain the integrity of Arthur Dyson's design.
- June 21, 2011 - The Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved a new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), which included the Fresno Aquarium project for the first time.
- August 31, 2012 - Thanks to the generosity of our Charter Members, Donors and Sponsors, including a dedicated gift from Tessa and Nick Cavelletto, Chowchilla-area almond farmers, our structural engineer. Bob Parrish, PE of Parrish Hansen, Incorporated of Clovis completed the structural plans for the Phase One life support basement of the Fresno Aquarium project.
- 2013 - We launched our second Capital Campaign - From the Ground Up - which seeks to raise $730,000 from individuals, families and businesses who put their names on the 5,100 (2,200 large and 2,900 regular) concrete blocks needed to build the life support basement. This very first building on our site will be constructed approximately where the cars are parked in the photo at the top of this page.
- May 5, 2015 - Because of generous donations to the From the Ground Up campaign - including substantial support from the Cavellettos once again - the Institute reached a point where we had enough money in the bank to start construction activities on our property. Aquarius Aquarium Institute applied to the County of Fresno for a Director Review and Approval (DRA #4400) to build a +/- 6,000 sq ft Aquaculture Building on the site. For the next eight months, the County and numerous State agencies thoroughly reviewed our plans, provided an opportunity for other local agencies to comment and developed recommendations for Conditions of Approval for the project.
- December 31, 2015 - Aquarius Aquarium Institute received a letter from the County of Fresno stating that Director Review and Approval Application #4400 was approved on December 7, 2015, subject to an appeal period of 15 days. Since an appeal was not filed during that time period, the Director's decision is final and Aquarius Aquarium Institute has 2 years to construct its very first building - the Fresno Aquarium Aquaculture Building - and to comply with all the Conditions of Approval.
- May 25, 2016 - Because of Donors like you, the Institute celebrated the groundbreaking for the Fresno Aquarium Aquaculture Building. Read story here.
- 2016 - Site grading was completed by Jim Crawford Construction of Clovis for the access driveway and building pads for the Aquaculture Building and a fire protection water tank.
- 2017 - Andrew Tuell Concrete of Clovis began construction of our fire protection water tank concrete pad on March 21st. Our new, custom-made 35,000 gallon fire protection water tank was delivered by Central Valley Tank on June 27th and by fall Jerico Fire Protection of Fresno had constructed the underground water main to serve a new fire hydrant near our building pad. This same water main will also provide water to the fire pump and sprinkler system that will be installed inside the building.
All of these complicated steps require a great deal of political and monetary support from our community and the Institute's Board of Directors and founders Tom and Aletha Lang are sincerely grateful for all we've received thus far. We look forward to receiving your new or additional donation in any amount today!