The manatees at Tampa Electric’s world-famous Manatee Viewing Center have some new teammates when it comes to the “inside baseball” successes of environmental stewardship.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet your Tampa Bay Rays.
We’re not talking about Evan Longoria, Chris Archer, Alex Colome and other names you might recognize. These are the same exact rays – as in marine creatures – that bring fanciful atmosphere to Tropicana Field.
And now, for baseball’s off-season, they’re in a new temporary home where Manatee Viewing Center season is in full-swing.
It’s the latest, and among the greatest, upgrades at the Manatee Viewing Center this year: the rays – about 15 total, including cownose rays and southern Atlantic sting rays, joined by horseshoe crabs – are on loan from the Florida Aquarium in a 12,000-gallon tank that enables visitors to see them up close and even touch them gently as they glide past in the water.
“Our new rays tank takes the Manatee Viewing Center to a new level in terms of what we offer the public for free,” said Yasmin McComber, environmental specialist at the center. “It’s hard to imagine a better way to illustrate to our visitors of all ages – especially the young ones – about how exciting and unique marine life in the Tampa Bay area is, and how important it is that we protect the habitat that we’re cherished to have.”
Tampa Electric built the tank and The Florida Aquarium maintains it, with aquarium staff handling the sensitive work to feed and care for the rays. It’s another example of the partnership between the aquarium and Tampa Electric that you can see growing at the nearby Florida Conservation and Technology Center, an effort that also includes the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
As approximately five million visitors have come to know well since 1986, the Manatee Viewing Center offers much more to experience as well: habitat trails, butterfly gardens, vibrant displays, a café and gift shop … and of course the manatees themselves, which congregate by the hundreds in the clean, warm-water discharge canal that separates the center from Big Bend Power Station. And as the station produces safe, reliable power with a focus on environmental responsibility, the crowds that gather in its shadow to embrace environmental stewardship have more reason than ever to feel electric.
“The enthusiasm for the rays tank is off the charts,” said Stan Kroh, manager of Land and Stewardship Programs with Tampa Electric’s Environmental, Health & Safety team. “With each new and improved exhibit at the Manatee Viewing Center, we’re proud to be able to make environmental stewardship fun and free for the entire community.”
Add to that effort a touch-tank full of rays, scoring a home run with visitors in their home-away-from-home – without getting out of the water.