Manatee Rehabilitation Center nears completion at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A highly anticipated addition to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is nearing completion. Construction crews are wrapping up work on the aquarium’s new Manatee Rehabilitation Center.

"We are very frantically trying to get these last-minute details, so that everything is perfect to put manatees in this habitat," Clearwater Marine Aquarium Chief Veterinarian Dr. Shelly Marquardt said.

The new facility will fill a big need in the region. Marquardt explained that it is a positive that the manatee population continues to grow, but with that growth comes more injuries to manatees. CMA staff cites boat encounters, red tide and decreasing food sources as some of the reasons that manatees end up at care facilities.

PHOTOS: Manatee called 'Flapjack' rescued in St. Petersburg, taken to SeaWorld

"Clearwater Marine Aquarium is rising to the challenge, because the other facilities that keep manatees for rehabilitation, they’re at capacity," Clearwater Marine Aquarium Chief Zoological Officer Dr. James Powell said. "If Clearwater Marine Aquarium and some other facilities don’t come online, unfortunately and sadly, those manatees might not be able to be rescued and could end up dying."

The plan is for the center to open around Memorial Day. Marquardt said they will start with two manatees, with a max capacity of around six to seven manatees. A giant pool is the showcase for the center, so the mammals will be one of the first things visitors will see upon entering.

"Everything you see here, guests will be able to see," Marquardt said. "They’ll be able to talk to us, ask questions. Our goal is to educate as much as possible."

WATCH FOX 13 NEWS:

SIGN UP: Click here to sign up for the FOX 13 daily newsletter