By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
Cullman is about to get “Tanked.”
Officials hope the upcoming Bass Fishing Hall of Fame will be a tourism draw in and of itself, but it seems the project will also get some help from a hit reality TV series once work ramps up.
The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame works exclusively with Nevada-based Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM) on its aquariums — and now that the company is the focus of Animal Planet’s hit series “Tanked” — the local project is also expected to show up on a future season of the show.
The approximately $17 million hall of fame will be constructed as a joint project between the City of Cullman and the hall of fame at the city-owned Burrow Property on County Road 222. The state recently announced plans to add an Interstate 65 interchange approximately one mile from the proposed site, which officials say was a major factor in the recruitment.
“Our intention is to film the large tank, and see the smaller tanks that we’ll be building back in the factory,” Dennis Wightman, general manager of ATM, said while in Cullman on Friday. “We’ll be building a very large tank here, and our intention is to include it in a future episode of the show.”
As part of the design, both sides are planning a massive aquarium that will be featured in the hall of fame area, along with some smaller tanks around the facility.
Wightman visited Cullman on Friday and spoke at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon. He said the design for the local tank is still being hammered out, though they are considering an auditorium-style layout that would allow visitors to stand or sit around the aquarium and look inside.
“It’ll basically be a concrete tank with big windows, and you can think of it like a pool with big windows for the fish,” Wightman explained. “We’re looking at a keyhole-shaped aquarium now, which would be open where you could see all around from different sides.”
Hall of fame board president Sammy Lee said ATM’s involvement has helped jump-start the energy and passion for their entire board to get the project started.
“He has energized not only the board members, but all the committee people who were with us,” Lee said. “You can see works they do, and the projects they’ve completed around the world. It’s second to none. We’re so honored to have them on board with us.”
Though he doesn’t show up on the air very often on “Tanked,” Wightman said he considers himself the man behind the curtain who keeps the office running when the cameras aren’t around.
“I’m kind of like the ‘Oz’ of our office, doing all the hard work behind the scenes,” he joked. “If you ever see me on the show, I’m either ducking out of a shot or you hear my voice in the background.”
He also provided some more context on how the actual tank construction process differs from what viewers might see on the air.
“They come in, do some relatively short cuts of scenes with [hosts] Wayde and Brett, then all the hard work really begins,” he said. “Then, they come back in when its done and get some shots — but on the show it just looks like it happened that fast.”
Though he spends his days on the margins of a hit TV show, Wightman said he’s perfectly happy to remain one of the anonymous team members toiling along in the background.
“You can’t go anywhere with those guys without having to stop, because they’re always having to take pictures and sign autographs,” he said. “Me? I’ll give them all that, because I can still just walk down the street.”
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.