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Historic underwater theater lifted from lake

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TWC News: Historic underwater theater lifted from lake
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The latest and most problematic step in the multi-million dollar restoration of Spring Lake is now complete.

Aquarena Springs’ submarine theater was lifted from the lake Thursday. The massive undertaking was first attempted in February, but the more-than-1,000,000 pound vessel proved too much for the two cranes.

"I've been working on this every day since I came here in 2002 and to see it actually happen is a wonderful experience," Andrew Sansom with River Systems Institute said.

The removal of the underwater theater is part of a project to restore the peninsula to its natural state.

Millions of people had visited the theater over decades of use, but the crowd that gathered was unsure of what they’d see when it resurfaced.

"We call it a submarine and people expect it to have propellers and torpedo tubes," Ron Coley with the Aquarena Center said.

"Even though I've scuba-dived around it, even though I went in it as a child, I don't think any of us knew exactly what it was going to look like," Sansom said.

But nope, no torpedoes or even a periscope, the horseshoe shaped "aqua-arena" looks more like a castle than the underwater vessel it’s named for.

During the amusement park era, visitors would enter the submarine theater to be entertained by clowns and aqua-maids.

"You would start with it being on the surface, half-way submerged and it would end completely submerged,” Coley said. “That was why it was the world's only submarine theater."

In the 1990s, Texas State University purchased the park and began shifting the focus from entertainment to education.

"We feel very privileged to be its stewards and very fortunate that we were able to pull this off because it's a monumental day for the San Marcos springs," Sansom said.

The submarine theater will now be dismantled and recycled. A second, older sub is expected to be removed Friday.

The restoration project should be complete this summer at a cost of close to $3 million, shared by the Army Corps of Engineers and Texas State University.

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