NEWPORT, KY (FOX19) - Mighty Mike, the 14-foot, 800-pound American alligator, is returning to Newport Aquarium in the spring.
Mighty Mike made a limited appearance at the aquarium last year.
To better showcase the animal, Newport Aquarium is completely renovating and re-fitting its Ohio Riverbank gallery, adjacent to Gator Bayou, to house Mighty Mike. The new space will provide unprecedented views of the massive alligator. Instead of hiding underneath guests, as he was able to do during his last stay in the Gator Bayou space, visitors will come face-to-face with Mike through the 3-inch acrylic walls.
Ric Urban, curator of birds and mammals for Newport Aquarium, said that as soon as Mighty Mike left the Aquarium to go to his summer home last year, visitors asked if he would come back.
"We're very excited to be able to bring Mighty Mike back by popular demand," Urban said. "If you thought he was big and impressive before, wait until you see him in this new space."
The new exhibit area spans 44 feet and holds 8,000 gallons of water. This makes the new area 30 percent bigger than Mighty Mike's previous display space. His viewing height will be just over 40 inches above floor level when he's floating in the water, which he'll do for the majority of his stay. This puts Mighty Mike at the perfect height for children's views.
The water temperature will be kept at 80 degrees, ideal for American alligators. New heaters were installed in the area to assure the temperature is met year-round, and new UV sterilization systems will assure that the water quality and clarity is pristine for the Aquarium's large guest. In addition, a 12-foot by 14-foot basking area was constructed for Mighty Mike's favorite pastime: sunning.
Over 7,000 pounds of concrete have been mixed, colored and hand-applied to the new exhibit area to create faux-rock work, along with over 3,000 pounds of sand for the habitat.
Behind the scenes construction has been underway since fall 2011. Full construction on the exhibit began in December 2011.
Mighty Mike is expected to arrive in late March and will be at Newport Aquarium until March 2013.