But how do you pay for all of it? Aquarium officials have indicated that they intend to try to tap into Pinellas County's bed tax, a five percent tax on hotel visits that currently is paying off construction bonds for Tropicana Field, but will be freed up by 2015.
Then again, those funds could be critical if a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays is ultimately agreed upon in the county. And there are other people in line for the bed tax as well.
Today at a Tiger Bay event in St. Petersburg, County Commissioner Janet Long said she doesn't believe the issue is about how much money the Commission spends, but "what our value system is, and where do we want to put the precious resources that we have in terms of revenue that we have to deal with to fix the problems that we have in Pinellas County?"
She said some of those problems affect people and children, and that's more important in her opinion than building a new stadium or aquarium.
Her Democratic colleague who was also just elected in November, Charlie Justice, said the board would evaluate each project as it comes before them, but he had a warning about those who see the Clearwater Aquarium as breaking box-office records because of the success of the 2011 Hollywood film Dolphin Tale.
"You don't have to live far to see the Florida Aquarium in Tampa and current projections they had when they built it and the subsides that they continue to receive — I believe $6 million annually — so each project will have to win on its own merit," Justice said.
The proposed new aquarium would be built near the site of City Hall in Clearwater, which will require approval from Clearwater taxpayers who will decide at the polls this November.
Later on, CASA's Linda Osmundson asked about what the county would do about funding Safe Harbor, the largest homeless shelter in the county that the sheriff's office currently supports. Chief Bob Gualtieri has said that he'd prefer not to have his agency doing so after this fiscal year ends in September.
Commissioner Long admitted that she didn't have a ready response, going back to her earlier point about having priorities, such as helping the homeless over building a new stadium and/or aquarium.
Justice said the board would need to work with Gualtieri on a fiscal plan to fund the shelter moving forward, and then segued into reiterating what happened at the meeting with FAST at Tropicana Field earlier this week on affordable housing. "Four commissioners pledged to support the advancement of moving $5 million a year of Penny For Pinellas money from '17, '18 and '19 to '13, '14, '15 as far as our land assembly program for affordable housing."
One of the funnier question and answer exchanges came when blogger Peter Schorsch asked both commissioners if they owned some of their electoral success to the larger national political environment, as the two were successfully elected in 2006 in a big Democratic wave election, lost in 2010 in a GOP tsunami, and were again successful in 2012 behind Barack Obama's coattails.
Long, who has been the subject of biting criticism from Schorsch in the past, replied tersely, "No," eliciting laughs and applause. Justice said there are "a million ways" that you win campaigns, and can rarely point to one single thing that changes the entire course of a campaign.