Public Aquaria News


THE BIRMINGHAM SEA LIFE CENTRE VISIT
 by Len Nevell

While on a trip to Kenilworth near Birmingham.  I decided to go and see the new Sea Life Centre in Birmingham with my son Wayne who is fourteen. The Centre is not very well sign posted as you enter Birmingham.  I was looking for a large spread out group of buildings similar to the other Sea Life Centres I have been too. Once we found the signs to the Centre and travelled to the centre of Birmingham, I thought it cannot be very big because of lack of space amongst the big buildings.  We found Bridley Place and parked in the car park of the NIA, the National Indoor Arena and followed the signs out.  After a very short walk we came to the end of path, looking out you had a good view of the canals, and boats on the canal.  My son pointed to the Sea Life centre, it looked very small and unimpressive.  As we walked over the bridges to get to it we saw the queue, it went around the building and out of sight.  Around the building was signs "Half hour, One hour, One and a half hours and so on, with enough space for about 100 persons between the signs. The last people would have to wait for one and a half hours.  It was a very nice day and the people and the children seemed quite happy to wait.

Having many dealings with the Weymouth Sea Life I entered the main entrance and introduced myself to Ian Shore the Display supervisor.  He greeted us warmly and told us to have a good look round and he would meet us later to show us back stage at all the plant needed to round the show.

The building was very large inside, but I could now see why only one hundred people can enter at one time, and a maximum of 500 persons in the building at any one time, up to 5,000 visitors per day. There was a spiral ramp going up, about 2 metres (6/7 feet) wide, and would allow wheel-chairs access but would be a hard push.  Once we passed the slow moving group of visitors we reached the first floor and the rays tank, a very large round tank with dozens of all types of rays and flat fish.  We walked up another spiral ramp to the second floor, and wide range of smaller tanks and different species.  The spiral ramp continued up to the top floor, where we were now at the source of the river which also ran down by the ramp showing fresh water fish as well.  There were tables and chairs to rest. The next step was to enter a lift going down, as if you were going down the leg of an oil rig, to the base of the oil rig which stands in very deep water.  So we entered the lift and went down.  Moving from the lift and along the passage we came to the entrance of a very large clear round tube, we were now walking through the centre of a 1,000,000  litre tank, with sting rays and flat fish below us and large tope and other sharks, very large cod and many other species of large fish plus large swimming congers above and around us. Forcing our self to leave this fascinating tank we moved through the gift shop and out in to the main entrance and to the restaurant for a drink.

Ian Shore arrived and took us to the filtration plant, I was expecting a large plant, but it was enormous 500,000 litres of sea water per hour going through different filtration methods to thoroughly clean the water.  Plus a fresh water filter as well.

Queues

I asked Ian about the queues outside he explained for safety reasons why only a limited number were allowed in at one time, but how this had not stopped people with children waiting for over two to three hours when they first opened to get in.  And that they have been very busy ever since, with 2,000 a day at weekend in October.

I was very impressed with the way the Sea Life Centre had dealt with the two major problems they had to over come with being in the centre of Birmingham.  The clever way they had dealt with the lack of space, by building upwards.  The second, not being near the sea for fresh, clean water.  By investing in a giant filtration plant which Ian said "It has been working very well since the centre has opened.  The only alteration they have done was install extra coolers, as it has a lot of glass in the building, and a very hot summer may have caused minor problems keeping the fish at the correct temperatures".

It is certainly worth a visit. The best time to visit is out of the peak tourist season, as it is open all year round, with a waiting time of about 15 minutes at week-ends, if that during the week. 


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