SeaLife Center plans repairs with $10 million settlement

Posted: Friday, November 03, 2000

SEWARD (AP) -- The Alaska SeaLife Center is preparing to seal leaks and make other major repairs after settling a complex legal battle over defective construction claims. The settlement will net the two-year-old center $10.1 million.

Center executive director Tylan Schrock told the Seward Phoenix-Log he was ecstatic about the settlement. It signals an end to more than two years of legal battles over construction of the $56 million, 115-000-square-foot complex.

Over the next couple of months, the center will focus on repairs that protect animal welfare and employee safety, Schrock said. More extensive work will come later.

''The $10 million is tied to real things that need to be fixed,'' he said.

The settlement lists 17 parties involved in the $20.4 million settlement.

Five construction firms and nine insurance companies are paying $14.1 million to the SeaLife Center.

In turn, the Seward marine facility will pay $4 million to general contractor, Strand Hunt Construction, which started the legal battle in 1998 when it sued the SeaLife Center for more than $7 million over change orders even before it opened.

The center sued the contractor back, saying work was inferior and incomplete. Various other suits were filed involving insurance carriers.

Strand Hunt will receive $6.2 million as a result of the settlement, including $1.2 million from the errors and omissions insurer.

In court documents, the SeaLife Center alleged defects including exhibits that leak; concrete work in walls, floors and ceiling that is cracked and defective; peeling paint; defective stainless steel counters; and inoperative boilers.

The SeaLife Center has struggled financially since it opened in May 1998 as a research center where visitors could watch the scientists doing their work.

The center, built in large part with settlement money from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, lost $2.7 million in 1999.

There had been concerns that it would close after the summer tourist season. But Sen. Ted Stevens obtained $5 million in federal research grants for the center and was seeking more money for the center in the current fiscal year.

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