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A 10,000-square-foot expansion to WOW will house the Windland Smith Rice International Awards and its annual Nature’s Best Photography exhibition.
A 10,000-square-foot expansion to WOW will house the Windland Smith Rice International Awards and its annual Nature’s Best Photography exhibition.

WOW unveils expansion details

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What does Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX), the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and a 5,000-pound bronze marlin have in common?

They’re all part of expansion and addition plans unveiled Thursday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of WOW’s reopening. Since the relaunch a year ago, WOW has brought in 1.6 million visitors, according to a news release.

Springfield Business Journal previously reported on an expansion between Bass Pro Shops’ flagship store and the museum and aquarium fronting Campbell Avenue. Officials were mostly mum for the Sept. 14 article, though a WOW spokeswoman pointed to an upcoming announcement in tandem with the museum’s first anniversary.

A new 10,000-square-foot space is expected to open in 2019 to house the Windland Smith Rice International Awards and its annual Nature’s Best Photography exhibition. The photo exhibit previously only was displayed at the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C., according to the release.

The expansion is funded, in part, by a $15 million donation from FedEx and its founder Fred Smith. The Windland Smith Rice International Awards are named in honor of Smith’s late daughter, Windland Smith Rice, who was a wildlife photographer and conservationist.

The space will serve as a link between WOW’s aquarium lobby and its wildlife galleries. Guests will access the Windland Smith Rice exhibit by riding an elevator through a pride of taxidermic lions, according to the release.

“Wonders of Wildlife is an inspirational and ever-changing tribute to the hunters, anglers and conservationists who helped discover, develop and preserve the nation we love,” Bass Pro Shops and WOW founder Johnny Morris said in the release.

City building permits for the 1935 S. Campbell Ave. point to estimated $3.8 million worth of work for an addition and remodeling by the Johnny Morris Foundation.

On the Sunshine Street side of WOW, officials on Thursday unveiled a two-story, 5,000-pound bronze black marlin statue added in front of the main aquarium entrance, according to the release.

The sculpture in 2016 was installed at the Cairns Marlin Marina in Australia, where it caught the eye of Morris. The sculpture was created to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the capture of the first 1,000-pound black marlin by Cpt. George Bransford and deck hand Richard Obach in the Coral Sea off Cairns, Australia.

Morris sought to bring the sculpture to Springfield after viewing it, according to the release.

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