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Attractions Review 2018: March

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In a year of ups, downs, loops and scoops, Attractions Management looks back at some of the biggest stories to hit the headlines, giving possible indicators at what’s still to come in the year ahead.

It was an eventful March as, after years of delays, George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art finally broke ground. Meanwhile, the Georgia Aquarium showed off its expansion plans and the man behind a failed Alabama theme park project was given a 10-year prison sentence for fraud.

A New Hope

With delay after delay and problem after problem, it looked like George Lucas' long-awaited Museum of Narrative Art was never going to be realised.

But finally, after years of delays and multiple locations touted, the official groundbreaking for the museum took place in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park.

The 300,000sq ft (27,800sq m) museum will celebrate the art of visual storytelling – from comic art, paintings and illustrations to photography, filmmaking and drawings – with collection galleries, exhibition spaces and two theatres displaying original works of art, digital technologies and daily film screenings.

The museum will also feature an expansive public landscaped roof, artificial waterfalls and pathways through 11 acres of surrounding new parkland and gardens, created by LA landscape architects Studio-MLA.

"The focus of the museum is to open up people’s imaginations and inspire them to dream beyond what is considered possible," said Lucas speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony on 14 March.

"Narrative art and storytelling stirs our emotions, shapes our aspirations as a society, and is the glue that binds us together around our common beliefs."

Sharktastic expansion

The US's largest aquarium is about to the get even bigger, after the Georgia Aquarium revealed plans for a major expansion, with a new saltwater gallery home to a variety of different sharks at its heart.

With PGAV Destinations acting as lead architect, the project will cover 41,000sq ft (3,809sq m) and is slated to open in 2020.

Called Expansion 2020, the plan features the new shark habitat and a redesigned entrance. The saltwater gallery will feature floor to ceiling acrylic windows, giving guests an up-close and personal view of the aquarium’s sharks. According to the aquarium, potential shark species under consideration include hammerheads, sand tiger sharks, and sandbar sharks.

As an additional feature to the new tank, the aquarium says it is working on a "number of animal interactions" for the new exhibit, with details to be finalised and revealed in the near future.

"Our focus is to provide a fresh perspective on the vital role sharks play in our oceans’ health," said a statement from Georgia Aquarium.

"Sharks face many challenges, like overfishing and habitat degradation. Humans pose the biggest threat to sharks and through this new engaging exhibit, guests will learn more about these apex predators and their importance to our oceans."

Fraud sentence for Alabama businessman

The US businessman touted as a top investor in a multi-billion dollar multi-theme park proposal was handed a 10-year prison sentence in March for defrauding more than 40 investors in relation to the project.

Bryan Robinson pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud for engaging in a business that "operated as fraud or deceit upon more than 40 Alabama investors," according to a statement from District Attorney Chris Connolly and Joseph Borg, director of the Alabama Securities Commission.

Robinson had announced grand plans in 2015 to construct two US$3.5bn (€2.8bn, £2.5bn) theme park projects in Texas and Alabama.

One of the two parks – DreamVision SoundScape – was touted as being 10 times the size of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, with the park anchored by a central ‘mountain’ and surrounding musically-themed neighbourhoods showcasing country, pop, gospel and jazz, among other genres.

Beyond the announcement, neither of the two parks ever came to fruition, with Robinson ordered to pay a fee totalling more than US$7m (€5.7m, £5m) in restitution to the victims, as well as covering court costs.

Check back with Attractions Management tomorrow for a look back at the highlights from April

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It was an eventful March as, after years of delays, George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art finally broke ground. Meanwhile, the Georgia Aquarium showed off its expansion plans and the man behind a failed Alabama theme park project was given a 10-year prison sentence for fraud.
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