USA. Tampa Electric's Manatee viewing center reopens after record breaking season

Friday, 02 November 2007

The Manatee Viewing Center, a free environmental education center unique in Florida, kicks off its 2007-2008 season today after another season of record-breaking attendance.

The center, open annually from November 1 through April 15, features the South Shore Café refreshment area, gift shop, an interactive Web camera with a live view of the center that can be accessed at and a boardwalk with observation areas for viewing manatees. The manatees converge on the clean, warm water reservoir adjacent to Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station in numbers that have topped 300 when the water temperature of Tampa Bay drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

About 312,000 visitors came to the center for its 2005-06 20th anniversary season, nearly 40,000 more than its previous attendance record. The center is the only one of its kind in Florida to offer free admission to see manatees in the wild near a power station.

“We’re excited to welcome the public to a new season at the center,” said Wendy Valle Anastasiou, environmental specialist at the Manatee Viewing Center. “This year visitors will find an expanded parking lot and we’ve improved our ‘Florida-friendly’ gardens and butterfly gardens. There are also new items on display in our education building.”

A solar panel array is also new at the center this year, teaching guests about renewable sources of energy while generating electricity atop the center’s education building. The array was installed in conjunction with Tampa Electric’s Renewable Energy program, which lets customers partner with the company to support renewable sources of energy.

The Manatee Viewing Center got its start in 1986, when Tampa Electric built a manatee observation platform near its Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, officially welcoming the first manatee watchers to the station’s warm water reservoir. Since then, the center has hosted more than 2.1 million visitors who have come to learn about these endangered marine mammals, their habitat, and other local wildlife and plant life.

The center, accessible to handicapped visitors, is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from November 1 through April 15. Parking is also free. For more information, including holiday hours, directions to the center or to make group reservations, visit or call 813-228-4289.

Last Updated ( Friday, 02 November 2007 )