GALVESTON — Come 2015, SpongeBob SquarePants will start giving tours at one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions.
An interactive exhibit featuring the prolific Nickelodeon cartoon character is planned to be one of the new additions during the next couple years at Moody Gardens as part of a series of projects to update and renovate some of the complex’s most visited areas.
In total, Moody Gardens plans to spend $58 million for the projects, which will continue through 2018.
The park board on Tuesday approved the projects, following a presentation by Moody Gardens General Manager John Zendt. The entire project will be paid for by the Moody Foundation, which funds, operates and supports the city-owned tourist attraction. Zendt said the foundation had already approved the funding.
The interactive attraction will feature SpongeBob and his fellow cartoon characters and teach environmental and conservation topics at the facility’s Discovery Pyramid, Zendt said. The pyramid will also remove its outdated motion-based rides and replace them with space for traveling exhibits.
At the aquarium, the layout will be changed to get guests to the some of the most popular attractions, such as the penguins, sooner. New tanks will be added, and others will be refurbished. New sting ray touch tanks and Humboldt penguin exhibits will also be added.
A ropes course and a zip line will be installed at the Palm Beach Water Park.
Zendt said the Discovery Pyramid and Palm Beach renovations will be completed in 2015, and the aquarium renovations will be done some time in 2018.
“We feel that if every couple years we don’t add an attraction, your attendance drops off. So we’re going to spread these thing out so every few years we’re doing something new,” Zendt said.
A seasonal ice-carving exhibit will also be set up to begin in November 2014. Zendt said that a large tent — one that takes up a quarter of Moody Gardens’ parking lot — will be set up, and 24 artists will be brought in to carve 6,000 blocks of ice. Zendt said he expects the attraction will bring in 130,000 additional guests in the winter.
Zendt said all of the attractions will remain open during the course of the renovations.
The board members were unanimous in their approval of the project.
“I think it’s a very valuable cause that you’ve taken on,” park board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun told Zendt. “Not only for the environment, but for tourism.”