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Cleveland goes under the sea

October 6th, 2011

Cleveland’s new catch has the community buzzing.

The historic Powerhouse building on the West Bank of the Flats in downtown Cleveland went through a $33 million transformation to become the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.

Originally set to open this month, the date has now been pushed back to December.

“We made design improvements, especially around the local freshwater area,” said Tami Lash Brown, the general manager of the aquarium.

Students are happy to see a new attraction in Cleveland.

“It’s great because they are finally renovating the Flats,” said John Carroll sophomore Ben Toth. “At this point, anything to attract people to Cleveland is great, and that is exactly what this aquarium will do.”

Marinescape Eco Aquariums, a company known for its 21 large walk-through aquariums throughout the world, will be operating the facility. Cleveland will be the proud owner of the first Marinescape Eco Aquarium in the U.S., drawing the attention of surrounding states. The company is originally based in New Zealand, and after the challenging logistics, they were able to come to the states.

The hook, line and sinker of this aquarium extraordinaire will be the nearly 150-foot walkway tunnel, called The Caribbean Shark Tank, that allows people to admire sea life in a whole new way, as it provides a panoramic view for visitors and enables them to stand just a few feet beneath beautiful tropical fish and chilling six-foot sharks.

There will be over 40 different tanks, both salt water and fresh water.

“I would go to the aquarium to see the tunnel … Now that I’m older, I can appreciate [an aquarium] more,” said JCU freshman Tyler Takacs.

Much larger than previous tanks in Cleveland, such as the Gordon Park aquarium, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium has much more to offer for families and is expected to be a main attraction downtown.

Over 70,000 square feet of space will be filled with 42 different tanks and aquarium activities. Staffed with experts from zoos and other aquariums, 40 other full-time jobs will be created from this outlet and 400,000-500,000 customers per year are expected to attend.

“The aquarium will have a huge economic impact. The Newport Aquarium near Cincinnati calculated their impact at $60 million in their first year in 2003, but other aquariums have reported impacts in the hundreds of millions,” said Brown.

Inside the complex, a restaurant will be open to the public, while a banquet room will be used for special events.

Also featured in the facility are 10 exhibitions including tropical rainforests, and creatures from Ohio lakes and rivers. This will allow people to learn about the kind of fish that are prominent locally.

Even area residents are looking to get involved. On their first Facebook page entitled Cleveland Aquarium, separate from The Greater Cleveland Aquarium page, a local resident offered to donate his tropical fish to the collection. Depending on whether the aquarist can find an appropriate tank, the fish may be added to the aquarium’s exhibit.