Architectural renderings of the proposed Toronto Ripley Aquarium
Shore thing?: Toronto may finally get a much-needed new tourist attraction now that various levels of government are prepared to pump millions of dollars into the project — a Ripley Aquarium that will sit at the base of the CN Tower off Bremner Blvd.
In a story posted on its website last night, the Toronto Star reports that governments are prepared to take the plunge and invest taxpayer dollars in the aquarium project because of the obvious spin-off economic benefits such a major attraction would provide to the city. Ripley’s had applied to the city in November 2009 for zoning approval to build the three-storey entertainment complex which would include the aquarium as well as retail and restaurant facilities. The City gave approval last summer, but negotiations have continued to work out project details. Now the project is even closer to fruition, with sources telling the Star that construction is on the horizon since contracts could be signed as early as this summer. If so, the 150,000-square-foot attraction could be ready in time for the Pan Am Games in July 2015.
One of the aquarium’s top tourist draws will be “the largest underwater tunnel in North America,” Ripley’s Entertainment president Jim Pattison Jr. told the Star. “There will be tens of thousands of different (marine) animals, and some features that will be unique to Toronto,” he said. Further details about potential government investment in the aquarium are outlined in the Star story available at this link. Additional information about the Ripley’s Aquarium and its location beneath the CN Tower is provided in a public art plan that was submitted to the city’s Public Art Commission last July.
Building the aquarium beneath the CN Tower is a brilliant idea, I think, since the Tower draws nearly 2 million visitors a year to the area, and the Rogers Centre and convention centre are both right next door. Other nearby tourist draws include the Air Canada Centre just a five-minute walk away on Bremner Blvd., and Harbourfront just a 10-minute walk to the south. Toronto desperately needs more tourist attractions; as the Star points out, the Hockey Hall of Fame was the last major tourist attraction to open in the city, and that was 20 years ago.
It’s almost embarrassing to read the Toronto forum on TripAdvisor.com and see how short the list of city tourist attractions actually is (besides recommending visits to the Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Eaton Centre, Hockey Hall of Fame and CN Tower, locals usually recommend tourists leave the city for day trips to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake instead.)
Personally, I’ll be thrilled to see construction commence since I have heard talk about bringing an aquarium to Toronto since I moved here nearly 30 years ago. That’s been more than enough time for talk and wishful thinking. It’s high time now to finally get this project going!
Below are some photos I’ve taken of the proposed aquarium site — presently a grassy knoll between the CN Tower and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Aquarium development proposal sign near the CN Tower
CN Tower observation deck view of proposed Ripley Aquarium site Nov. 2 2010
View towards the Ripley Aquarium site from the base of the CN Tower
Aquarium site viewed from walkway along the east side of the Rogers Centre
The aquarium would be built on this grassy hillside beneath the CN Tower
View toward the Ripley Aquarium site from the south side of Bremner Blvd.