In November 2001, Bernard Marcus announced his idea to construct an aquarium as a present to Atlanta, Georgia that would encourage both education and economic growth. Marcus and his wife Billi visited 56 aquariums in 13 countries to research and design a structure, and finally donated $250 million toward Georgia Aquarium’s construction. An additional $40 million dollars in financial contributions was donated by major corporations including the Coca-Cola Company, Turner Broadcasting, Home Depot, UPS, AirTran Airways, AT&T, Georgia-Pacific, Time Warner, SunTrust and Southern Company. The corporate donations allowed the aquarium to open debt free.
The Georgia Aquarium, located in Atlanta, Georgia, USA at Pemberton Place, is the world’s largest aquarium with more than 8.5 million US gallons (31,000 m³) of marine and fresh water housing more than 100,000 animals of 500 different species. The aquarium’s notable specimens include four young whale sharks, including Alice and Trixie, two beluga whales named Beethoven and Maris and two manta rays Nandi and Tallulah.
Funded mostly by a $250 million donation from Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, the aquarium was built on a 20 acre (81,000 m²) site north of Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. Marcus credited his 60th birthday dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 1990 as among the inspirations behind his desire to build an aquarium in Atlanta.