Original post taken from the AZ Central | By Beth Duckett


Construction is progressing rapidly on what will become the largest aquarium in the Southwest, with a grand opening expected in July, project officials said.

Standing at more than 60 feet tall with two levels, the OdySea Aquarium just outside of Scottsdale continues to take shape. Crews recently hoisted the main walls of the superstructure, located northeast of the Loop 101 and Via de Ventura.

The aquatic masterpiece is just one part of a massive development project on the Salt River Reservation.

Crews recently installed the main walls of the massive OdySea Aquarium off Loop 101 and Via de Ventura.

Next door, visitors can expect to see shops and restaurants, an indoor sky-diving facility and a towering Ferris wheel — all of which are on scheduled to open in July.

Amram Knishinsky, principal founder, said in a statement that building OdySea goes beyond a standard aquarium construction.

“From the story behind the innovative design, to the erecting of the enormous walls and plans for sustaining the marine life, the depth of this project is unimaginable,” he said.

For drivers, the structure is hard to miss — and looks more like an aquarium each day.

Crews recently finished installing 72 “tilt-up” wall panels that were assembled over eight days, according to project manager Don Mac with Phoenix-based McCarthy Building Companies.

OdySea’s biggest panel is 60 feet tall — the equivalent of nearly six stories — and weighs 220,000 pounds, or roughly 45 medium-sized SUVs.

Using tilt-panel construction speeds up the building process. The concrete walls are typically formed horizontally and then “tilted” into an upright position using a special crane.

McCarthy used a 300-ton crane to lift and install the panels, which were patched and cleaned in preparation for painting, project officials said. The panels will be tied together with structural steel, which takes about three months. Construction began in March and is expected to wrap up by June.

The aquarium, a 16-acre attraction designed to accommodate up to 15,000 visitors a day, is only one piece of a larger complex.

The tentatively-named Shops at OdySea in the Desert will be a “Seaport Village”-type venue with themed restaurants and interactive retailers — think glass blowers and candy makers — in an open-air marketplace, a spokeswoman said.

Knishinsky said the inspiration came from Europe, where he was “intrigued with the local artisans showcasing the uniqueness of their area.”

“I’m always inclined to make a purchase when I know it is local,” he said.

Drawings also show the indoor skydiving facility, called FliteShop, and 180-foot-tall Ferris wheel. Another element, Aquatic Oasis, was described in a news release as a “flagship water destination.” That and FliteShop are run by separate owners, a spokeswoman said. No more information on them was available.

Along with the existing Butterfly Wonderland and OdySea Mirror Maze, the attractions comprise the larger OdySea in the Desert Entertainment complex on the Salt River Reservation.

The tribe has dubbed the entertainment area Talking Stick: A Cultural and Entertainment Destination. It includes Talking Stick Resort, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the Pavilions shopping center and other offerings in the area around Loop 101 and Indian Bend Road.

Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez, Talking Stick Resort marketing manager, said the tribe is excited to see continued growth with OdySea in the Desert.

“The OdySea Aquarium and its OdySea project neighbors, which will include experience retail, an indoor sky diving experience and a few yet to be announced surprises, will further enhance entertainment options for guests and continue to augment our development efforts in the Salt River Indian Community,” she said.