Believe it Or Not Toronto will soon have a Ripley's Aquarium

Artist's drawing of proposed Shark tank and glass walkway

Canada’s Biggest City Building Canada’s Biggest Aquarium

By Stephen Weir 
Believe It or Not Toronto is finally going to have an aquarium. Work has already begun on a new building at the base of the world famous CN Tower.  Even though it will be two years before the first Sand Tiger Shark and Carpenter Shark  (sawfish) move into Shark Lagoon, three levels of government have already laid out the welcome mat for Ripley Entertainment, the owners of the future aquarium which is scheduled to open in 2013.
At a late August press conference Canadian entrepreneurs, Jim Pattison Senior and Junior, officially launched the construction project.  The Jim Pattison Group, one of the country’s largest private companies, owns Ripley Entertainment (Ripley’s Believe It or Not), and operates aquariums in both Tennessee and South Carolina. 
The new Toronto aquarium project has strong financial support and redevelopment monies from the Federal Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto. Heavy political hitters from all levels of government attended the event. Speaking at the aquarium splash were federal MP Ted Opitz, Ontario Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. 
Ontario Tourism Minister Michael Chan

“I look forward to coming back here with my scuba suit, when the work is all done,” joked Michael Chan the Province of  Ontario's Minister of Tourism and Culture.  His Ministry has invested $11-million in the $130 million construction “Getting an aquarium of this caliber in Toronto is a major win for our province. It will entertain and educate, bring in millions of visitors, fill our hotels and create hundreds of jobs for Ontario families.”
Mayor Ford told Diver Magazine that project negotiations between the city and the Pattison Group had taken over two years.  The city has agreed to provide up to one million dollars a year in tax incentives over the next twelve years.

Mascots pose at the Aquarium construction site

"This state-of-the art facility will provide jobs for our residents and a wonderful tourist attraction for our city,” said Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto.  Over the past two decades his city has seen three different aquarium proposals (at Ontario Place, on the CNE Grounds and in the basement of the CBC building) from three different companies, before supporting the Ripley’s project.  The new aquarium will be a reported 35,000 sq. feet larger than Canada’s largest aquarium located in Vancouver.
The press conference was held inside the Convention Centre directly adjacent to the CN Tower and the new site. With a full construction team digging and moving dirt visible through the backdrop window, the talk was business -- very little was said about the building, their proposed collection or their themes
Jim Pattison Junior did announce that the new facility would NOT house any whales, dolphins or other mammals.  It will, he told the business audience, have several salt and fresh water tanks that will showcase both Canadian freshwater and saltwater fish.  He anticipates that they will have 13,500 fish from 450 species, in the living collection.
And while the Minister of Culture is already looking forward to scuba diving inside the aquarium's Shark Lagoon, the Pattison Group is not sure yet whether or not they well be letting divers into the water when the building is opened. "That has not yet been decided. We are just starting similar programs at our other aquariums, so I am not sure," a spokesman for the aquarium told Diver Magazine. "It’s really too soon to create any specific programs."

Aquarium Factoids provided by Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
What to serve at an aquarium launch lunch? Melon Jaws!

In a press kit handout the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada listed Quick Facts about the coming attraction:
  • Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is expected to draw nearly two-million visitors each year;
  • The Aquarium will be one of the largest in North America, with a capacity of 5.7-million litres (1.5-million gallons);
  • Featuring 450 species, the Aquarium will be home to more than 13,500 inhabitants;
  • Well-trained staff dedicated to the highest standards of aquatic husbandry will include biologists, scientists, divers and aquarists who will work diligently to ensure all the animals are safe, well-tended to, and allowed to flourish;
  • The Aquarium will conduct breeding/conservation programs for endangered species, including ongoing tagging and tracking programs for sand tiger sharks in conjunction with universities and government agencies.


Anonymous said…
I had read the local coverage for the aquarium announcement -- this is by far the most informative! Keep following this story please - sharklover