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Tim Gallen
Reporter- Phoenix Business Journal

The construction of a 200,000 square-foot aquarium is set to start soon with an opening date of July 1, 2016.

The OdySea Aquarium is being built near Loop 101 and Via de Ventura Drive on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Communityland. The same people behind the Butterfly Wonderland are behind the aquarium. A ground-breaking ceremony was held Thursday.

Phoenix is the last large metropolitan area without an aquarium, said Amram Knishinsky, OdySea co-founder.

“We believe our aquarium will be the No. 1 attraction in the Valley,” Knishinsky said. “What is special to this aquarium, compared to many of the others, we are using new technology that has never been introduced in aquariums ever before.”

The OdySea Aquarium is not only going to feature a large collection of marine life but also theme park-like attractions, Knishinsky said. He is careful about what he says about some of the aquarium’s attractions because he wants there to be some surprises when it opens.

Most major aquariums in the U.S. are nonprofits but the OdySea Aquarium is for-profit. Knishinsky built the country’s first for-profit aquariums in Newport, Kentucky, which is in the Cincinnati metro area, 16 years ago, and another in Connecticut.

It has been more than a year since the aquarium was first announced. Knishinsky said there are a number of reasons why the construction has been pushed back including engineering solutions inside the aquarium.

Also, a part of the 35 acres the aquarium is being built on was flooded during the storms last September and new flood barriers were built.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Vice President Martin Harvier said to build on community land there are a lot of permits and approvals needed and can sometimes slow down plans.

Knishinsky said he received his building permit the first week in March and will start construction right away. The project should be done in less than a year and a half.

The OdySea Aquarium is the latest of entertainment facilities being built in Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Harvier said all of the development started with the Salt River Fields and has exploded from there.