DULUTH (AP) -- They're packing in the visitors like sardines at the new Great Lakes Aquarium.
The aquarium drew 43,475 people in its first two weeks, exceeding all expectations. At six times the size of the aquarium, the new $100 million Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul drew roughly the same number of visitors (47,000) in its first two weeks.
"We're a fair amount above our projections," David Lonsdale, the aquarium's executive director, said modestly. "Maybe 600 to 1,000 visitors above our daily projections."
Interest has been so high that lines have gone out the door and into the overflowing parking lot or around the building nearly every morning. The Lake Superior harborfront aquarium sometimes has had to resort to timed ticketing, allowing people to purchase tickets for tours at specific times of the day.
"It's going gangbusters," Lonsdale said.
Through Friday, the slowest day was 2,419 visitors on July 30, the second day it was open. The busiest was 3,890 on Aug. 5. Average daily attendance has been 3,105.
Those who visited Friday were delighted.
"I think it's great for kids and adults," said Shannon Kalligher-Adams, of Duluth. "Especially from the educational point of view."
Her son, Matt Kalligher-Adams, 6, liked the fish.
"I thought it was great -- the big fish that were the size of ... ," he said, stretching his arms wide. Some fish matched his 3-foot height.
"It's really informative and easy to get around, too," said Barbara Precoma, of Thunder Bay, Ontario. "The gift shop was gorgeous."
Her son, Nicholas, 7, was also a fan of the fish and "the big moose."
But there have been some minor snags.
Among them, the water wall in the lobby has been turned off because water was splashing off the glass wall's six horizontal seams. Those seams have been filled and smoothed and the water is expected to be flowing next week.
The traffic also has led to problems with a couple exhibits. A wave tank attracted more use than expected, so a motor that drives one of the mechanisms had to be re-engineered to accommodate the extra activity. It should be operating by Tuesday.
And some birds are still becoming acclimated to their new surroundings, so for now, people will have to watch them through netting. Eventually, visitors will be able to get close to the birds and ducks.
The fish have adapted well to their tanks, Lonsdale said, and out of 2,000, only about a dozen have died.
"It's been better than expected," he said.
Lonsdale said all the bugs should be worked out in time for the aquarium's next big event -- a dedication ceremony this coming Saturday.
On the Net: http://www.glaquarium.org
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