POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — The Sternwheel Regatta was big for business at the Point Pleasant River Museum, and with the new addition and 2,200-gallon aquarium, it’s going be much bigger, Executive Director Jack Fowler said.
Fowler looks forward to the new aquarium, because he believes it will attract even more people to the museum, especially during the Regatta.
“It will be here next year, and it will be awesome,” he said.
The archaeological study to determine the delicacy of the ground behind the museum was finished in April, and the results came back inconclusive.
Architects will finish a design for the addition this month, revisions will be made and it will be sent to the state for approval.
Fowler aims to have project bidding by the end of September and construction to start around October.
“We’re progressing, little by little,” he said.
The expansion is funded by the Federal Highway Transportation Enhancement Grant, administered by the West Virginia Department of Highways. Of the $165,000 total cost for the expansion, the grant covers 80 percent or $135,848. Fowler anticipates 45 days of construction.
Marshall University’s Integrated Science and Technology Department will stock the aquarium with 35 species of fish from the Ohio and Kanawha rivers, and the department will maintain it. Periodically, they will change all the fish in the aquarium and replace it with different fish.
Like the museum, the aquarium will not stay static, Fowler said. He wants to offer new fish for viewing each time a person comes to the museum.
“It’s going to be extremely well received,” Fowler said. “It’s going to make a big difference on our income. It’s going to allow us to do something we’ve not been able to do.”
Fowler said once the expansion is complete, he hopes to begin marketing the museum to schools in surrounding counties and offer tours.
The addition will have an interactive pilot house. People will have the opportunity to guide a towboat under the Silver Memorial Bridge and turn it into the Kanawha River while maneuvering around obstacles in the river.
To host meetings, the addition will have a new conference room and a small kitchen to help serve meals during events.
The museum is still trying to determine a location for the paddle wheel recovered from the Weber W. Sebald in April. When it is restored, the wheel will be 18 feet in diameter and 27 feet wide.
The first annual “Tribute to the River” will be held Sept. 1 at the Point Pleasant Riverfront Park, hosting 35 sternwheelers, entertainment and plenty of food.
“It’s going to be a really, really good day,” Fowler said. “I think it will be one of the most fun days we’ve had on the river. I think it will grow into something nice.”