Member Press Releases

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  • January 19, 2017 3:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ripley's Believe It or Not! Key West Odditorium Opens New Exhibit on Norwegian Man's Attempt to Cross the Atlantic Ocean  - Alone and in a Rowboat!

    Exhibit features actual items from Stein Hoff's unbelievable voyage

    Key West, Fla. - The Keys are full of boaters who might make a long trip on the water now and then - but not many would dream of attempting a 3,400 mile journey. Alone. 

    In a rowboat. 

    That's exactly what Norway's Stein Hoff did in May of 2016. He left New York City in a 24-foot rowboat on a three-month journey, headed for England, with no support at all. And he did it at 70 years of age!

    Items from Hoff's journey are now on display at Ripley's Key West Odditorium, including his shirt, shoes, gloves, daily rations, emergency signal device and more.

    Ripley's was a major sponsor for what was dubbed The Unbelievable Voyage. And incredible it was - Hoff was slammed by a major storm three months into his journey. His boat was battered by 30-40 foot waves and wind gusts as high as 60 mph. His boat was left crippled - 850 miles from shore. He activated his EPIRB, prompting an international rescue effort. After several hours, he was rescued by a cargo ship.

    Hoff was recreating the 1896 journey of two Norwegian Americans, George Harbo and Gabriel Samuelsen, who were the first people to row across an ocean. Robert Ripley wrote about their feat in his first Ripley's Believe It or Not! book. This is Ripley's first exhibit on Hoff's incredible feat.

    Ripley's Key West Odditorium, located at 108 Duval Street, is open 10 am - 8 pm 365 days a year.

  • January 02, 2017 7:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Statement Attributed to Mark Watson

    Chair of The Florida Aquarium Board of Directors

    Tampa, Fla. —The Florida Aquarium Board, staff and volunteers are mourning the loss of our esteemed and much loved President and CEO, Thom Stork, who, after a valiant fight, succumbed to his battle with cancer today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time. 

    During his 14 years at the helm, Thom led the Aquarium to record attendance and revenue while bringing the guest experience, as well as animal and conservation programs, to new heights. The Florida Aquarium Board, staff and volunteers will miss Thom tremendously.  A true leader, he led his team with great success and prepared them for the future. But more than that, Thom was a dear friend to so many of us.  From the front-of-house staff to our leadership team and Board members, Thom valued each person’s unique skills.  We all will need time to process the loss of such a great man and leader.

    With a solid vision, commitment and an entrepreneurial spirit, he oversaw the creation of Explore a Shore and a Rising Tides $15 million campaign which exceeded financial goals and delivered Stingray Beach, the Carol J. and Barney Barnett Learning Center and the Mosaic Center, scheduled for completion soon. He expressed that one of his most rewarding contributions to the Aquarium was forging a dynamic partnership with Tampa Electric (TECO) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to create the 20-acre Center for Conservation at Apollo Beach, now in the early stages of development.  Likewise, a huge proponent of education, he was thrilled to see the Aquarium celebrate its 1.5 millionth student this past November.

    Thom also was a pillar of the community and a steadfast advocate for marketing Tampa Bay and Florida as primary tourism destinations.  He served on the Florida Tourism Commission by appointment of Governors Bush and Crist of Florida, the boards of Visit Florida, Visit Tampa Bay, the Tampa Downtown Partnership, the Tampa Convention Center and Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.  Also, he previously held several marketing leadership positions at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Adventure Island, SeaWorld of Florida and Discovery Cove.

    Prior to Thom’s passing, The Aquarium’s Succession Planning Committee identified a search firm and initiated the process of finding a successor.  Chief Operating Officer Scott Rose is assuming the interim role of CEO while continuing to manage the Aquarium’s day-to-day business operations with his leadership team.

    It was Thom’s urgent request that The Florida Aquarium continue to work passionately to protect and restore our blue planet, including our waters right here in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  He also encouraged us to continue building bridges by expanding our conservation partnerships such as those with the National Aquarium in Cuba. We know our supporters expect this as well, and we will tirelessly continue to do so.

  • December 30, 2016 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Apollo Beach, Fla. – The Florida Aquarium has collaborated with Tampa Electric Co. (TECO) to open a new stingray touch experience at the Manatee Viewing Center (MVC) in Apollo Beach.

    “TECO has been a wonderful partner of ours for years, and we’re excited to work together on this new guest experience that will educate and connect people with the natural environment,” said The Florida Aquarium’s President and CEO Thom Stork. “They continue to be a strong community supporter of the Aquarium and our commitment to protect and restore the blue planet starting right here in Tampa Bay.”

    Through safe interactions, onsite educators, and informative graphics, hundreds of thousands of manatee viewers can enjoy meeting other critical animal species that rely on a healthy Tampa Bay ecosystem.

    The newly constructed 10,000-gallon stingray exhibit is the new winter home for more than a dozen of the Aquarium’s stingrays—including cownose and southern species—that reside in the outfield touch exhibit at the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg during summer baseball season.

    Moving the rays across the Bay in 600-gallon transport carriers—complete with life support— required two trips, 12 staff members and a veterinarian. “The stingrays arrived safely and are all acclimating well to their new home,” reported the Aquarium’s Director of Animal Husbandry Mike Terrell. “Thanks to the elaborate infrastructure TECO provided, this new habitat is state-of-the-art and has allowed us to create an environment that is safe, enriching and well-suited to stingray behavior.”

    The habitat uses advanced monitoring technology that Aquarium biologists can access online at any time, from anywhere. They can view current oxygen levels, as well as the system’s pump and filtration status from any computer or smart phone. “The life-support system comprises more than a half a mile of pipe,” added Terrell.

    The Aquarium will provide around-the-clock care for the animals including a staff veterinarian and four biologists who observe the animals, feed them and provide proactive health monitoring. The rays eat squid, capelin and smelt, about 25 pounds of food a week for all the animals in the habitat.

    This new experience comes just in time to welcome the five-millionth visitor to the center, which experiences an influx of West Indian manatees that seek out the clean, warm water discharge canal of Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station when the water temperature of Tampa Bay is 68 degrees or colder.

    The stingray touch experience adds another key element to the Florida Conservation and Technology Center, a conservation and education site shared among The Florida Aquarium, TECO and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  This interactive, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-based living classroom is aimed at educating students and showcasing environmental conservation efforts being spearheaded by all three organizations.


    TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center


    6990 Dickman Road, Apollo Beach, FL 33572.

    Open Nov. 1st to April 15; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; observation tower and trails close at 4 p.m.

    (The center closes at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Easter).


    About The Florida Aquarium

    The Florida Aquarium is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution whose mission is to entertain, educate and inspire stewardship about our natural environment. It is ranked as one of the best aquariums in the country and “top 5 kid-friendly aquariums” by Parents Magazine.


    About Tampa Electric

    Tampa Electric, one of Florida’s largest investor-owned electric utilities, serves about 730,000 customers in West Central Florida. Tampa Electric is a subsidiary of Emera Inc., a geographically diverse energy and services company headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

  • December 21, 2016 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Florida Park Service is excited to announce a Call for Business Plans for concession operations at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, located in Tallahassee. Possible services include two potential concession operations as follows:

    1. Special Event Services
    2. Food and Beverage Services, and/or Recreational Equipment Rentals, and/or Merchandise Resale

    The mandatory on-site meeting will take place on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 2:00 pm. More information can be found on the Doing Business with the Parks Website.

    To register for the mandatory meeting or to submit questions in advance, please email Mrs. Savannah Lacy-Lustra at by 5 pm Eastern, Tuesday January 17, 2017 (pre-registration is not mandatory, but is recommended by the Department).

  • December 20, 2016 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Florida Park Service will be hosting a Call for Business Plans mandatory on-site meeting in Panama City Beach on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 9 a.m. Central. This competitive process will be used to find a concession partner to provide expanded visitor services at Camp Helen State Park. Please consider forwarding the information listed below to your members or partners who might be interested in this exciting opportunity:  

    Park: Camp Helen State Park

    Scope of Services: Food and beverage service, merchandise resale, recreational equipment rentals, special event management and more.

    County: Bay

    Mandatory Onsite Meeting:

    Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2017*

    Time: 9:00 a.m. Central

    Location: Camp Helen State Park

    23937 Panama City Beach Parkway

    Panama City Beach, FL 32413


    *Interested parties must attend to be eligible to submit a proposal.

    Term: Multi-Year

    Proposal Deadline: No later than 5:00 p.m. Central, Wednesday, February 1, 2017

    To register for the mandatory meeting or to submit questions in advance, please email me at no later than 5:00 p.m. Central, Monday, January 9, 2017 (pre-registration is not mandatory, but is recommended by the Department).

    More information can be found at the Doing Business with the Parks website.

  • December 09, 2016 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The program will help the Museum recruit, manage, support and retain skills-based volunteers from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, specifically targeting high school students from area Title 1 schools.

    TALLAHASSEE, FL - The Tallahassee Museum has received a $13,000 grant from Volunteer Florida's Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF). The VGF is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service and administered by Volunteer Florida.The Museum is one of 22 organizations across the state to receive an award.
    Chester W. Spellman, Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Florida, sad, “As the lead agency for service and volunteerism in Florida, we are proud to announce this investment in Tallahassee and communities across the state. Our grantees will put volunteers to work providing STEM education opportunities, helping job-seekers find employment, and teaching financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship to Floridians.”

    The 2016-17 funding will expand the STEM programming delivered by the Tallahassee Museum by going beyond the grounds of the Museum. This two-pronged approach is designed to deliver STEM programming in the school setting, as well as in a non-traditional setting. The name of the two programs are Saturday Science Fair and STEM on Wheels. Saturday Science Fair will offer a hands-on approach to the scientific method. STEM on Wheels will deliver project-based STEM programming to Title 1 schools in Leon County through the use of skills-based volunteers.  

    “Volunteer Florida's Volunteer Generation Fund’s (VGF) support of the Museum will greatly enhance the Museum’s capacity to provide valuable services and support to directly address the needs of the Museum’s community, its school children, adults and schools. Through its STEM based learning programs, the Museum is addressing both the growing needs of our society’s labor force and the needs of our 21st Century learners.” said Russell Daws, CEO/President of the Tallahassee Museum.
    The current volunteer program at the Tallahassee Museum includes a variety of opportunities. The Museum's management team annually works with as many as 1200 volunteers from the city, county, universities, and a variety of other science-based organizations.
    "This program will engage students in exciting project-based STEM activities that address real world problems, such as clean water and shrinking biodiversity," said Natasha Hartsfield, Director of Education of the Tallahassee Museum. "Through creatively working together, students will use critical thinking skills to solve problems. This will result in a better understanding of the scientific method, and hopefully spark an interest in STEM through collaborating to find solutions to everyday concerns that impact us all."

    Volunteer Florida's Volunteer Generation Fund program maximizes organizations' capacity to recruit, manage, support and retain skills-based volunteers. Skills-based volunteerism expands the impact of community organizations by leveraging professionals' skills to strengthen the operations of nonprofits. A total of 22 organizations in Florida will reeive  $13,000 VGF grant this cycle. Grantees will match the funding with $287,560 in local investments, bringing the total investment in Florida communities to $573,560. 

    About Volunteer Florida:   
    Volunteer Florida is the lead agency for volunteerism and national service in Florida, administering more than $32 million in federal, state, and local funding to deliver high-impact national service and volunteer programs in Florida. Volunteer Florida promotes and encourages volunteerism to meet critical needs across the state. Volunteer Florida also serves as Florida’s lead agency for volunteers and donations before, during, and after disasters. For more information, visit

    For more information on the Tallahassee Museum's Volunteer Program visit or call (850) 575-8684


    Set amidst 52 acres of breathtaking Florida flora and fauna, the Tallahassee Museum has served as an iconic Tallahassee landmark for more than 50 years. Ranked as one of Florida’s top museums, the Museum’s living exhibits of native Florida wildlife, nature trails, native gardens and a zipline course are renowned by visitors of all ages.  The Museum encourages guests to discover and learn about North Florida’s natural environment, rich history and diverse cultural communities. To learn more about the Tallahassee Museum, please visit

  • December 07, 2016 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Creates new opportunity for Gateway customers to automate dynamic pricing

    Gilbertsville, PA – Gateway Ticketing Systems, the world leader in ticketing software, admission control and revenue generation for the attractions industry, is pleased to announce its alliance with Digonex, a leading provider of dynamic pricing solutions for attractions.

    The alliance will provide Gateway customers seamless access to Digonex’s powerful dynamic pricing technology, which automates the process of optimizing and updating prices to accelerate revenue growth, shift attendance from peak to shoulder periods, and enhance community accessibility.

    Digonex’s team of PhD economists and experienced software developers custom designs each customer’s solution to meet their strategic objectives and factor in their unique business characteristics. Both Digonex and Gateway work with a diverse customer base including zoos/aquariums, theme parks, museums, and other tours and attractions.

    “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with Gateway,” said Greg Loewen, Digonex’s Chief Executive Officer. “We have always admired their focus on innovation and providing their customers with new capabilities to accelerate the growth of their businesses. We are looking forward to working with Gateway and their clients to help advance this cause.”

    Gateway’s President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Andre added: “Our mission is to make our customers’ lives easier. Through our alliance with Digonex, we’re offering them an automated dynamic pricing solution that can boost their revenue with no manual updating necessary. Providing them with easy integration to this scientific approach can only help them achieve their goals.”


    About Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc.
    Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc. is the world leader in ticketing software, admission control and revenue generation for industries including attractions, theme parks, waterparks, tours, zoos, aquariums, museums and historic sites. Located in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, Gateway Ticketing Systems provides strategic consultation, sales, service and support for point-of-sale and ticketing systems throughout North America and worldwide. Gateway’s robust Galaxy® Product Suite integrates ticketing, admission control, resource management, group sales, online ticketing sales, retail, food and beverage, and membership management.

    About Digonex
    Digonex is a leading provider of customized dynamic pricing solutions to clients in arts & entertainment, sports, attractions, cultural institutions and retail sectors. Digonex’s technology is the result of almost two decades of research and development in pricing science. The company has been awarded six patents and has six others pending. Digonex’s team of PhD economists utilizes dozens of variables to develop an automated and customized pricing solution for each client to accelerate revenue growth and achieve other critical strategic objectives. Digonex is known for the effectiveness of its solutions, its “high touch” service model and dedication to client satisfaction. For more information, please visit Digonex is majority-owned by Emmis Communications, an Indianapolis-based media and technology company (NASDAQ: EMMS).

  • December 06, 2016 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ocoee, FL, Dec. 6th, 2016 – GameTime Family Entertainment Center, full service Restaurant and Sports Bar announced today that a new location in Ocoee is expected to open in the second quarter of 2017. GameTime Owner/CEO Mike Abecassis made the announcement.

    "The decision to have a presence in Ocoee is a result of understanding that the entire area includes residents that service Orlando,” states GameTime CEO Mike Abecassis. “We are a local business first and foremost; we look forward to serving the local Ocoee community and becoming a choice destination for family entertainment and dining.”

    GameTime will open a 25,000-square-foot family entertainment center located along the destination’s main thoroughfare, West Colonial Drive. “We are excited to welcome GameTime to West Oaks Mall,” stated Steven Maksin, CEO of Moonbeam, an integrated commercial real estate investment group whose affiliate owns the Mall. “The new entertainment center is an integral component of the mixed-used redevelopment and will further catalyze the transformation of the West Oaks Mall”.

    The new GameTime will have similar attractions to the other flagships, and is expected to follow the same design concept. Featuring 50+ flat screen TVs, more than 100 new and retro classic arcade games, prize machines, mini bowling and other attractions with a full liquor bar and full service restaurant, GameTime will serve as a great place to watch the game, host a party or special event and enjoy a fun time with family and friends.

    “This is an upscale entertainment venue for all ages and we looked closely at their Miami location, coming away very impressed,” explains Craig Shadrix, Assistant City Manager, City of Ocoee. “We are very excited about GameTime coming to Ocoee. This is one of many exciting new announcements for the West Oaks Mall with several yet to come, and we are all committed to bringing high wage jobs to the area, which will attract quality retail and entertainment, such as GameTime.”
    GameTime’s menu will feature an American cuisine including a variety of appetizers, salads, pizzas, burgers and sandwiches, entrées and desserts. The Ocoee GameTime will be the company’s ninth Florida location and the fourth flagship.


    About GameTime

    GameTime, led by CEO Michael Abecassis, owns and operates seven family entertainment centers throughout Florida: “Dine and Play” arcade, restaurant, full-bar and party venues in Fort Myers, Miami and Tampa; and “Play Your Way” arcade-only venues in Mary Esther, Panama City, Sebring and Vero Beach.
    GameTime will be synonymous to locals residents of Ocoee and visitors as the place to enjoy a delicious meal, cocktails, watch the game, play games and have a party. For more information and the latest updates, visit, follow us on Twitter (@GTplayers), Facebook (GTplayers) and Instagram (gametime_fl)

  • December 05, 2016 2:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Gilbertsville, PA – Recognizing the innovation of one of Gateway Ticketing Systems’ newest technological solutions, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) awarded Galaxy Connect™ an IAAPA Brass Ring Best New Product Award. The second-place award was for Technology Applied to Amusements: Facilities and presented to Gateway at the IAAPA Attractions Expo, recently held in Orlando.
    Galaxy Connect is a cloud-based platform that enables attractions the ability to integrate with any number of online travel agencies with one integration to sell live tickets. In addition to providing guests with direct-to-gate admission, Galaxy Connect also helps venues increase ticket sales while saving money on costly one-off IT integrations and eliminating the time-consuming voucher reconciliation process.
    “We innovate every day to help make our customers successful through technology,” says Michael Andre, President and Chief Executive Officer, Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc. “It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized with the prestigious IAAPA Brass Ring Award.”
    Gateway previously won an IAAPA Brass Ring Best New Product Award for its eGalaxy™ Reseller Web Store that automates the process of consignment ticket sales.
    To learn more about Galaxy Connect, visit or reach out to us directly at  


    About Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc.
    Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc. is the world leader in ticketing software, admission control and revenue generation for industries including attractions, theme parks, waterparks, tours, zoos, aquariums, museums and historic sites. Located in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, Gateway Ticketing Systems provides strategic consultation, sales, service and support for point-of-sale and ticketing systems throughout North America and worldwide. Gateway’s robust Galaxy® Product Suite integrates ticketing, admission control, resource management, group sales, online ticketing sales, retail, food and beverage, and membership management.

  • November 22, 2016 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    MELBOURNE, Fla., November 22, 2016 — New continuous belay hardware from American Adventure Park Systems has been installed on all five Treetop Trek courses. This world-class, secure system streamlines the guest experience by eliminating the need to clip in and out before and after each course element. Instead, a c-shaped “claw” remains hooked onto the line for the entirety of each course, gliding over thin but strong metal plates as needed.

    “This new system makes for a much more enjoyable experience and allows our guests to focus on the fun and adventure,” said attractions manager Nancy Wright.

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