Any angler knows that success often depends on great partners, timing, and a little bit of luck. Those same ingredients have come together to land a super-sized, special exhibition in Chattanooga this fall.
“Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants,” a National Geographic exhibition, will open on October 1 in the River Place building adjacent to the Tennessee Aquarium’s ticketing center located in Aquarium Plaza and the former site of the Chattanooga History Center.
Upon entering, Aquarium guests will have an opportunity to take a deeper dive into the hidden world of freshwater fish that grow to enormous proportions in the wild.
Dr. Zeb Hogan, aquatic ecologist and National Geographic Fellow, has taken millions of viewers on his global expeditions during each episode of Monster Fish on Nat Geo WILD. This new travelling exhibit, based on the hit TV show, showcases stunning life-sized sculptures, hands-on interactive exhibits, and videos from the field.
“The Tennessee Aquarium is the perfect home for this exhibition – together with the River Giants exhibit in River Journey, and the aquarium’s conservation activities such as the Saving the Sturgeon program, visitors will have a chance to experience and learn about these fish in a totally immersive way,” said Dr. Hogan. “The Tennessee Aquarium will truly be a one stop shop for all things “monster” fish.”
But this was almost the one that got away.
In June, River City Company invited a group of community leaders to come together to brainstorm opportunities for the River Place building which was vacant after the History Center’s departure. One of the suggestions discussed was the potential to host temporary exhibitions in this space. But no one envisioned anything coming along in the near future.
In early July, the Aquarium was contacted by Dr. Hogan to see if there might be interest in partnering with National Geographic to bring the Monster Fish exhibit to Chattanooga. “Normally, we would have had to pass up a fantastic opportunity like this because we simply do not have a suitable space available for a 6,000 square-foot temporary exhibit,” said Keith Sanford, Tennessee Aquarium President and CEO. “But the timing was perfect given that we now had an opportunity to work out an arrangement with River City to use the existing 8,000 square-foot space next door.”
“The River Place location is a crucial building in the fabric of Chattanooga’s Riverfront,” stated Kim White, River City president and CEO. “Partnering with the Tennessee Aquarium to offer a short-term and well suited use of the space is exactly the type of interim use for the building we were looking for until a more permanent tenant is found.”
Dr. Hogan has been to Chattanooga on several occasions. He helped forge a relationship between the Aquarium and National Geographic to launch the River Giants exhibit. And shortly after that, Hogan returned to film portions of a Monster Fish episode about the legendary stories surrounding Blue Catfish.
“National Geographic is such a great partner to work with and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to have Zeb come to Chattanooga again for the grand opening of the new Monster Fish exhibit,” said Cindy Todd, the Aquarium’s chief marketing and branding officer. “His mission to find, study, and protect these freshwater fish and their habitats is perfectly aligned with the Tennessee Aquarium’s conservation efforts.”
The Monster Fish exhibit will be in Chattanooga through the beginning of March and will be free with Aquarium membership or Aquarium general admission. The University of Nevada, Reno, where Dr. Hogan is a researcher, is the exhibit’s educational partner.
While there are no permanent plans for River Place after the Monster Fish exhibition concludes, River City Company is hopeful that the excitement that comes this fall and winter helps lure something new next spring. “We hope the Chattanooga community looks at the River Place building with fresh eyes once Monster Fish arrives and helps us be creative about its long term tenant. It’s an important space, and we want to find the right fit,” concluded Ms. White.