BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
Workmen installing pilings Thursday for the future Hyatt Place hotel at Atlantis Marine World on East Main Street in Riverhead.
Atlantis Marine World is hoping to get its Hyatt Place hotel and new exhibit space up and running by June 2011, Atlantis principal Jim Bissett announced at a Riverhead Chamber of Commerce event Thursday morning.
Work on the project adjacent to the existing East Main Street aquarium is already underway, he said, as crews have been banging some 550 pilings into the ground to stabilize the hotel’s future foundation.
Once complete, the Hyatt will contain 100 bedrooms, several conference rooms, a banquet hall that can seat 400 and an additional 10,000-square feet of exhibit space, Mr. Bissett told those in attendance at the monthly “Eggs and Issues” event at Polish Hall in Riverhead.
Exhibits will rotate through the new space every one to two years, Mr. Bissett said. The group is planning for a Titanic exhibit, dinosaur exhibit, butterfly exhibit and a Bodies exhibit similar to the one that was on display at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, Mr. Bissett said.
“This is very important to the longevity of the aquarium,” Mr. Bissett said, “to keep a newness to the aquarium.”
“We’ve been here 10 years and we’ve drawn more than 4 million people in that time,” he continued. “They like what we’re doing, but we know that to keep them coming back, we have to keep it fresh.”
The banquet hall space will enable Atlantis to host weddings or conferences in the daytime, while the aquarium is open. This is something they can’t do now, because it would conflict with the aquarium space and hours, Mr. Bissett said.
Catering has become a major part of Atlantis’ business, with more than 100 weddings already booked, he told the community and business leaders Thursday. The proposed banquet center will triple the amount of space the aquarium has for events.
Likewise, the hotel also will address a need in the area, Mr. Bissett said. Finding nearby rooms for guests and visitors in the summer has been difficult, he said, noting that the hotel will carry mid-range pricing.
“We want to stay true to our base of young families, who don’t want to pay $500 for a room,” he said.
The $25 million project is expected to create an additional 50 full time jobs, according to Mr. Bissett, who said Atlantis now has about 200 full time jobs during the peak season, twice what they had originally anticipated.
Atlantis is projecting a 65 percent year-round occupancy rate for the hotel. “That means 55,000 more people per year coming to Main Street; that’s going to have an impact,” he said.
Atlantis also plans on spending an additional $500,000 on marketing, and is hoping to tap into the New York City market, he said.
Atlantis has yet to get site plan approval for the project from the town, but has a foundation and site work permit. The 550 pilings are needed because the land was once swampland and is a very unstable, Mr. Bissett said.
“The town has been very helpful,” he said.
Atlantis also has all its county health department approvals, a process that took several weeks, Mr. Bissett said.