[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Edward Gately
The Republic | azcentral.com

After the success of Butterfly Wonderland just outside Scottsdale on the Salt River Reservation, private investors are planning to make a bigger splash with their next phase.

OdySea Aquarium, a 16-acre indoor attraction, will be under construction this summer adjacent to Butterfly Wonderland, and OdySea Mirror Maze/Laser Maze will be built at the northeastern corner of Via de Ventura and Loop 101. It will open on Thanksgiving 2015 and accommodate up to 15,000 visitors daily, its developer says.

When completed, the OdySea in the Desert entertainment complex will encompass 35 acres leased from Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members.

Most of the overall investment in the complex, about $175 million, will be spent on this next phase, said Amram Knishinsky, OdySea CEO. In addition, it will include retail space and “Taste of the World,” with 14 international restaurants.

OdySea Aquarium will be a two-level facility that will span more than 200,000 square feet. Visitors will move to each level via acrylic tunnels while viewing sea life from around the world. It will employ more than 250 people.

“It’s larger in size, larger in budget and a much more complicated project,” Knishinsky said. “It’s close to 2 million gallons of water in numerous tanks, with the largest — the shark tank — holding 400,000 gallons. The life-support system is extremely unique and expensive.”

Knishinsky, Martin Pollack and Rubin Stahl are the development and management team behind OdySea in the Desert. Their other projects include the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky and the OdySea Experience in Connecticut.

“With all the tourists in the Valley … this will be one of the places you’ll go to,” Knishinsky said. “This type of an attraction, based on our experience in Newport, can draw from large geographic areas.”

From the giant aquarium balls that will hang from the ceiling of the lobby, to the glass walls in the restrooms with a view into the shark tank, the aquarium is aimed at wowing visitors. In addition, special underwater masks will enable visitors to take an underwater tour inside one of the fish tanks.

OdySea in the Desert is part of an emerging entertainment corridor along Loop 101 east of Scottsdale that includes the Talking Stick Resort and Casino, two adjacent golf courses and the Salt River Fields baseball complex.

“The tourism and economic impact OdySea in the Desert upon completion is a project that will support the larger vision of what the Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination area aims to be … the leading cultural and tourism destination on Native American lands in Arizona,” said Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez, Talking Stick’s marketing project manager.

Planned exhibits at the aquarium include Rivers of the World, American Rivers, Amazon Rivers, Shores, Penguins, the Great Barrier Reef, and “the Bizarre & the Beautiful,” including jellyfish, octopus, large king crabs and seahorses.

The venue also will include a cafe and gift shop, and will accommodate private events.

The investors have an extensive plan for stocking the aquariums with fish and other sea animals, Knishinsky said.

“There are a number of companies on the East Coast, in Florida and the West Coast that specialize in going out to the ocean and capturing by order what you’re looking for,” he said. “Also, many of the species may now be in a smaller aquarium where they outgrew their space.”

The aquarium won’t include whales and dolphins, Knishinsky said.

“You need larger facilities for that and there’s a lot of controversy, and there’s no need,” he said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_button style=”flat” size=”medium” bg_color=”#008ec0″ txt_color=”#fff” outline_skin=”#444444″ outline_hover_skin=”#fff” icon=”icon-arrow-circle-o-right” url=”http://www.azcentral.com/community/scottsdale/articles/20140203odysea-aquarium-next-addition-to-salt-river-entertainment-complex.html” target=”_blank” align=”left” margin_bottom=”15″]View this story on azcentral.com[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]