World Aquarium closing its doors today

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - St. Louis's World Aquarium closed its doors at the City Museum for the final time Monday night.

After 22 years (the past 11 at the City Museum), the aquarium’s sharks, sea turtles, and stingrays will disappear from public view.

But it may not be the end of the story.

You hear people talk about the City Museum all the time:  but rarely do you hear them mention the world aquarium on the second floor.  They certainly won't be doing so now.

Leonard Sonneschien/aquarium president: “This is the last day World Aquarium will be open in City Museum,” aquarium president, Leonard Sonnenschein, told FOX 2.

Melanie Steen and April Smith were the final two visitors.

They rushed over after the Cardinal game.  They made it just in time, marveling at the more than 10,000 animals and 150 different species.

“Just the basic size of the animals.  I mean, you don’t see stuff like this,” Smith Laughed.  “The sharks and the stingrays…the turtle, he’s massive. I thought he was a rock!”

Most City Museum visitors never realized the aquarium was there; part of the reason it is moving.

“It’s the last day.  I’ve never been here before.  I’ve been in the City Museum a zillion times and never came through here,” Steen said.

The aquarium had run its course with the death of City Museum founder and visionary, Bob Cassily, Sonnenschein said.  The museum didn’t promote the aquarium much anymore.  Visitors had to pay a separate admission.

Still, the aquarium would be coming back, Sonnenschein said.

“Oh yeah, coming back bigger, better, stronger…except instead of being in an old building with old exhibits with this adaptive reuse, we’re going to make it modern.  It’s going to be steel and glass, really an amazing structure…blood sweat and tears have gone into this.  That’s my investment, besides a lot of money.  If I had to live it all over again, I’d do it just the same way… we’ve had a lot of people come in and cry; a very, very, emotional day today,” he said.

An announcement would be coming soon about a new $49 million World Aquarium on the Riverfront to open in 2017 with a public competition on the exterior design, said.  Until then, the animals will be cared for in a secure location until then.