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Toronto Ripley’s aquarium to make a big splash

A new Ripley's aquarium being built at the foot of Toronto’s CN Tower is expected to be a boon for the area. CITYNEWS

A new Ripley’s aquarium being built at the foot of Toronto’s CN Tower is expected to be a boon for the district, officials said during the attraction’s groundbreaking on Wednesday.

“There are two things that are good. It’s a good tourist opportunity, certainly. But I think even more importantly it’s a really nice asset for the families of the GTA,” Ripley’s Entertainment president Jim Pattison told CityNews.
 
“It’s going to be really a remarkable collection and everybody’s going to absolutely love it,” he said.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will be built over two years, and will create more than 600 jobs and generate more than $25 million in taxes for all three levels of government, according to a news release. It will generate 300 to 350 jobs when it opens in summer of 2013.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said, “This state-of-the-art facility will provide jobs for our residents and a wonderful tourist attraction for our city.”

Pattison also said “The beauty of this project is that we’ve had multiple levels of government [involved]. Everybody is co-operating here to bring something really exciting to the City of Toronto.”

The aquarium is also the city’s first new tourist attraction in almost 20 years since the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“Combined with the CN Tower and our just released EdgeWalk, this is becoming [a] tourist-attraction note,” said Mark Laroche, president of Canada Lands Company, which operates the CN Tower.

“It’s a unique experience and it’s something you’re going to go back [to].”
 
Canada Lands Company is investing more than $10 million to re-develop the John Street corridor into a pedestrian-friendly walkway with new signage to increase and improve pedestrian traffic from Front Street, he said.

“That’s an investment for our property of the CN Tower but also for the aquarium.”

“We’re aiming to have a world-class entrance for two world-class attractions,” he said.

The provincial government is investing more than $11 million to support the construction of the aquarium. The city’s contribution is property tax incentives over a 12-year period through a city incentive program for commercial and industrial corporations estimated to be between $8-to-12 million dollars.

The 135,000 square foot attraction at the foot of the CN Tower will be one of the largest in North America, housing more than 13,500  sea and freshwater creatures in 5.7-million litres of water.

It is expected to draw nearly two million visitors each year.

The aquarium will feature a unique large moving walkway through an acrylic tunnel below the Shark Lagoon that will house 10-to-12-foot sand tiger sharks, largetooth sawfish and other species.

The main exhibit will have a tropical reef tank as well as Great Lakes exhibits and Atlantic and Pacific habitats. There will also be a large retail and restaurant complex.

With files from Saphia Khambalia