Torontonians and visitors to Canada's largest city will soon be able to see sharks and stingrays despite being thousands of kilometres away from the ocean.
Against the backdrop of the new construction site at the base of the CN Tower, Ripley's announced their plans for a the groundbreaking $130-million aquarium today.
"We are going to be featuring species from all over the world," says Jim Pattison Jr., President of Ripley Entertainment. "We believe people are interested in what is going on under the oceans, under the rivers, under the lakes."
One of the features that will separate the Ripley's aquarium from many in the world, according to Pattison, is that it will be fun. It will have a 96-metre underwater moving walkway allowing people to look up and see animals swimming overhead. "You can't get any further underwater and not get wet," says Pattison.
The new attraction will feature more than 13,500 inhabitants, including octopi, jellyfish, sharks, stingrays and fish from the Great Lakes, such as pickerel, lake salmon and northern pike. "Anything you fish for here, you'll see in the aquarium," says Pattison.
While Toronto, far from open water, may not seem like the natural city for a major aquarium, Pattison has his reasons for investing in Ontario's capital.
"We think that Toronto is one of the last cities in North America to not have a major aquarium," he says. He likes the location "mostly because there is more people here, there is a lot of tourists that will come here when it's beside the CN Tower."
The aquarium is being paid for by Ripley's and all three levels of government. The federal government is investing $10 million via the Crown Corporation, Canada Lands Company, which owns the CN Tower and surrounding land. Ontario is investing about $11 million and Toronto is chipping in upwards of $12 million and will be providing property-tax incentives. Ripley's is paying for the rest.
Ripley's already has aquariums in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. While Ripley's is often associated with unbelievable animals and events, the two other aquariums have no three-eyed fish named Blinky.
The attraction is scheduled to open in 2013.