GREENSBORO — Some would say a penguin sighting in Greensboro is impossible, but not anymore. Everyones favorite swimming bird joins a cast of animal characters at the Carolina SciQuarium, opening this weekend at the Greensboro Science Center.
The penguins thrilled three-year-old Sean Orgias of Greensboro on Friday. His father, Ken Orgias, called the exhibits Awesome, and added that he was happy he didnt have to drive to the coast for aquarium visits anymore.
The SciQuarium bills itself as the states first inland aquarium. The 22,000-square-foot exhibit allows visitors to watch a fishing cat in action, admire sharks gliding by, and even touch a stingray.
Theyre pretty slimy, said Boone Redding, 7, of Greensboro, after leaning over to feel a ray during Fridays preview for science center members, media, and special guests.
Got it! said Boones sister Molly Ruth Redding, 5, her patience paying off as she waited for the animal to pass within reach.
The scientifically driven fun is great, said Kevin Redding of Greensboro, father of the two stingray enthusiasts.
And for those willing to do a bit of crawling, visitors can get a unique perspective of the Asian small-clawed otters in a small viewing dome surrounded by the exhibit space.
I absolutely love the otters, said Olivia Greeson, 18, a volunteer at the aquarium and a first-year student at N.C. State University.
And there is more than just animals.
The Hungry Games, one of several interactive SciPod learning areas, showed off eating habits of different animals, from sharks to penguins to snails. Touch screens scattered throughout the aquarium allowed for further investigation of science topics. And behind-the-scenes viewing windows let visitors see the pipes, water filters, and animal holding tanks necessary to run an aquarium.
Science center administrators and local politicians used oversized scissors to cut a ribbon marking the opening of the aquarium Friday morning.
We are here to celebrate the initiation of a new era in science-based tourism in this community, said Glenn Dobrogosz, executive director of the center, to a crowd eagerly waiting to explore the new aquarium.
Dobrogosz, a Raleigh native and self-proclaimed science geek, arrived at the center nine years ago with a vision. He sought to transform it from a science museum with a few animals to a complete science destination for tourists. In the past decade the museum has expanded at a breakneck pace, adding an extensive zoo, an OmniSphere Theater, an extreme weather education exhibit, and a hands-on robotics lab.
With public funding, the science center will continue to expand. Dobrogosz is spearheading a $32 million, seven-year development plan, and the SciQuarium is just a part of phase one of three. The museum will revamp exhibits, adding a Disney-like interactive dinosaur exhibit and a renovated basement space filled with underground animals.
The center also will expand the zoo, adding new animals such as red pandas and an outdoor area called SkyWild to feature nearly 75 activities for kids that will allow them to mimic the behaviors of animals. And the SciQuarium will add hundreds more fish and other animals in the months to come.
Were just barely getting started, Dobrogosz said.
His palpable passion for science began at a young age in Raleigh, where he explored a lake and creek near his home, turning over rocks and searching for crayfish and salamanders.
I just love diversity of life, Dobrogosz said. It just fascinates me.