Talk about economic impact: The Virginia Aquarium exceeded expectations, report says

(Southside Daily file photo/Courtesy of the Virginia Aquarium)
(Southside Daily file photo/Courtesy of the Virginia Aquarium)

VIRGINIA BEACH — With an operating budget of roughly $14 million, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center supports more than $257 million in annual economic activity here and more than $276 million across the state.

That’s according to a presentation by Sage Policy Group, Inc. to the Virginia Beach City Council Tuesday. The aquarium’s leadership team shared the results of an economic impact study completed by Sage Policy Group during both the peak and off-peak season.

According to the aquarium, other key findings from the economic impact study include:

  • The aquarium supports more than 3,250 jobs in Virginia Beach once multiplier effects are considered;
  • In fiscal year 2018, the aquarium generated enough city tax revenue to conceptually pay the salary for nearly 180 additional teachers or firefighters and 185 additional police officers;
  • City of Virginia Beach tax revenues increase by $12 for every one visitor to the Virginia Aquarium via indirect and induced impacts;

“This economic impact study shows that, without question, the Aquarium is one of the top economic drivers for the City of Virginia Beach, and the importance of reinvesting in our current operations will only pay dividends well into the future,” said Cynthia Spanoulis, executive director of the Virginia Aquarium. “We are thankful to Sage Policy Group for their research and compiling data that reinforces our importance in the City of Virginia Beach, the Hampton Roads region, and the state of Virginia.”

The survey was conducted by Christopher Newport University and administered during peak and off-peak seasons.

Survey questions included whether the Aquarium was the guests’ primary reason for visiting the area, how many days they intended to stay in the area, and how much they intended to spend in the area.

Sage Policy Group is an economic and policy consulting firm based on Baltimore that serves clients in more than 40 states and in seven countries, according to the aquarium.

The firm has authored economic impact analyses on behalf of communities across the United States, for Fortune 500 Companies, and for organizations like the National Aquarium.

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John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.