As we reported last March, Toronto has been in talks with Ripley Entertainment to bring an aquarium of epic proportions to the CN Tower. Nearly a year later, some more details have finally emerged about the soon-to-be-built 150,000-square-foot behemoth, including a completion date of 2015 (just in time for the Pan Am Games, natch), the above artist’s rending and some questions about not-so-transparent financing.
Canada Lands Company representative Gordon McIvor told Inside Toronto last January that the aquarium would mutually benefit Toronto tourism:
[The CN Tower] is the most trafficked tourist area in the country, at least in terms of man-made attractions, so you already have people in the area…It really has become Canada’s icon internationally, along with the Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains. Will [an aquarium] enhance the business of the CN Tower? You bet.
Jim Pattison Jr., president of the Orlando-based Ripley’s, says not only will there be tens of thousands of different marine animals for visitors to gawk at, but that the aquarium will feature the largest underwater tunnel in North America.
Roping in tourists for a profit is all and well and good (if they’re going to put this thing anywhere, it might as well be at the foot of the CN Tower), but the Toronto Star reports that taxpayers may swallow some of the costs to build the attraction. According to an unnamed source, various levels of government are expected to contribute $10 million each, on top of Ripley Entertainment’s $110 million investment. McIvor confirmed that Ottawa will indeed contribute to the project in the form of landscaping, signage and general improvements made to the Bremner Boulevard, John Street and Front Street entrances to the site.
It’s not yet clear where the rest of the financing is coming from, but what is clear is that the giant fish tank is expected to be a big tourist pull. McIvor says it’s supposed to bring two million people into Toronto’s downtown core annually. That’s enough to rival downtown’s other major tourist draw: the Eaton Centre.