Thanks to a deal signed by two companies, a mall-based aquarium is being planned for the Metro Detroit area. It is coming to Auburn Hills, to be exact. The Sea Life Aquarium will be nestled inside of the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets mall near the Rainforest Cafe. The construction will begin this summer and it may be ready to open as soon as the beginning of 2015.
The Bloomfield Hills company, Taubman Centers, Inc., is partnering with Merlin Entertainment plc to develop the 35,000 square foot mall-based aquarium, according to an announcement made on Monday. Merlin is the former owner of Game Works, which is already being demolished. He is also the owner of six other large-scale aquariums throughout the U.S. The Sea Life Centers feature turtles, starfish, seahorses, shrimp, jellyfish, rays and a variety of sharks. They also offer feeding demonstrations and interactive features, including being able to tough a live shark or even swim with them.
The company plans to build 30 displays around a tropical ocean tank featuring a walk-through tunnel. While visitors can expect to see the more exciting sea creatures like sharks and rays, they will also be able to see a sampling of marine life specific to the Great Lakes area.
Those in the Metro Detroit area who enjoy seeing marine life have been limited to either the small, 110-year-old aquarium on Belle Isle or are forced to travel long distances. Chicago is home to a large aquarium, as is the Mall of America, located in Bloomington, MN.
Although the Belle Isle Aquarium is free to the public, it only has 26 of its 50 displays occupied and is only open to visitors on Saturdays, after losing funding and being closed for several years. The mall-based aquarium coming to the Detroit area, however, will not be free of charge. Though the price of admission has not yet been announced, the cost of admission to the Sea Life Aquarium at the Mall of America is $22.99 per person at the gate.
Great Lakes Crossing Outlets mall is known as a discount shopping center, but it has also held a reputation for its entertainment. It is home to Jeepers, AMC Theaters and Game Works, as well as the fish displays the Bass Pro Shops. Game Works is now closed and the spot is the future site of the mall-based aquarium.
Mall manager, Steve Barlow, said he expects a lot of visitors. He anticipates visitors from Canada, as well as scheduled school field trips. “It will be a destination, no question about it,” he said. Barlow also stated that the addition of the aquarium will solidify the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets as a family venue.
The 35,000 square foot aquarium being added to the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets mall will offer visitors something they are not able to find closer to home, as the state’s largest aquarium of its kind. Merlin’s charity, Sea Life Marine Conservation Trust, will also benefit from the development of the aquarium and funds will be used for conservation efforts to help marine animals.
By Tracy Rose