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OdySea Aquarium Grand Opening

The Escalator to the Deep Ocean takes you underwater where many fish including big sharks swim next to you.

Who would have thought that sea life in the desert was possible?

If you have traveled along Loop 101 near Via de Ventura, you probably watched as a new facility slowly took shape. First the aquariums were built, and then the walls came up. What you may not know is that it took almost nine years and a joint effort between several parties. Including landowners, developers and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community for it to happen.

OdySea Aquarium is the newest attraction for the Talking Stick Cultural Destination Area, opening its doors to the public on September 3. The 200,000-square-foot, two-level facility will hold marine life from all over the world, including penguins, sharks, turtles, jellyfish, otters, sea lions and many more.

The aquarium is the largest in the Southwest and hopes to bring in thousands of visitors daily to get an educational experience through touch-and-feel or question-and-answer sessions. The facility will also have a 3D theatre, an underwater ocean walk, floor-to-ceiling views of colorful schools of fish, and even restrooms that offer a view of a shark habitat.

On September 1, a soft opening event took place in the OdySea Aquarium’s outdoor center courtyard. Traditional SRPMIC dancers were the evening’s entertainment, and SRPMIC Council member Jenelle Howard gave the blessing. Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez, marketing manager for the Talking Stick Cultural Destination Area, was the emcee for the evening. She shared an introduction and information about the Talking Stick Cultural Destination Area, then introduced speakers.

SRPMIC President Delbert Ray Sr. welcomed Community members, landowners, staff and visitors to the facility.

“I want to welcome everyone to Salt River, to the most educationally diverse economic development projects here in the Community,” said Ray. “The OdySea Aquarium will inspire the minds of visitors on the aquatic life. Water and the life that it extends is very important to the O’odham and Piipaash culture.”

Others also spoke highly of the aquarium.

“I remember back almost nine years ago, a number of companies competed to develop this valuable part of the land. If you want something special, something that is going to be alive, then we are the right group to develop on this area,” said Amram Knishinsky, lead developer and president & CEO of Odysea Aquarium. “This was always a dream of mine. People always ask me why would I develop an aquarium in the middle of the desert; why not? You have to travel 400 miles to be at the nearest ocean, and 18 million tourists would love to experience something like this.”

He explained that he pitched his vision of an aquarium in the desert, and the landowners gave them the opportunity to move forward.

Many reflections of the Pima and Maricopa culture are represented on the exterior of the facility. Large panels of artwork designed by Community member and artist Jacob Butler are displayed at each entrance.

The OdySea Aquarium will have more than 50 exhibits, 30,000 animals and 500 species. The facility is located at the northwest corner of Via de Ventura and the Loop 101. For more information on attractions, visit www.odyseaaquarium.com.

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