WNY Regional Economic Development Council project set to be popular tourist attraction for region
Crucial funding also provided by donation from the First Niagara Foundation and KeyBank
Empire State Development on Friday announced the beginning of construction for a $440,700 project to create a new jellyfish exhibit at the Aquarium of Niagara. This will be the first time in the venue' 53-year history that it will permanently house such animals among its collection.
This exhibit will include the addition of five displays in the brand-new gallery on the second floor of the aquarium. The "Aliens of the Sea" exhibit will build on the visitor excitement created by the new, $3.5 million "Penguin Coast" exhibit, which opened to rave reviews this spring.
The aquarium currently attracts 270,000 visitors annually with the new exhibits projected to attract an additional 30,000 visitors each year.
"I often visited the Aquarium of Niagara as a child and later brought my children to experience penguins and marine life from around the world," Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said. "Thanks to REDC investments and our state's ongoing commitment to transforming the economy of Niagara Falls, projects like this one are rebuilding hope throughout the city. Tourism is essential to the Niagara Falls community as a significant driver of jobs and economic development. The jellyfish exhibit will continue our momentum and create a beautiful new space for all ages to enjoy."
Funding for the "Aliens of the Sea" exhibit includes a WNY Regional Economic Development Council (WNYREDC) capital grant of $68,000 for construction costs, which will be dispersed when the project is complete. Additional funding for this addition to the aquarium is being provided through a grant of $150,000 from the First Niagara Foundation in partnership with KeyBank.
"This incredible new exhibit at the Aquarium of Niagara will provide an interactive experience for visitors to learn about jellyfish by exploring a uniquely created habitat that is the first of its kind in our region," said Elizabeth Gurney, executive director of the First Niagara Foundation. "We are very proud to provide the resources needed to enhance this treasured cultural attraction in Western New York. The renovations taking place at the aquarium will have a tremendous impact on our community, and reflect the redevelopment and resurgence taking place across Niagara Falls."
Jellyfish are new to the aquarium's collection and are part of the revised master plan launched in 2017. The jellyfish "Aliens of the Sea" will include five new exhibits on the second-floor level, featuring four species of jellyfish and approximately 100 individual animals. The total volume of water in the tanks will exceed 2,000 gallons. Dramatic lighting in the darkened exhibit space will allow for optimal viewing of the transparent jellies, whose bodies capture and fracture the colored light as they propel gracefully through the water.
Specialized exhibit design techniques are required to maintain this species. A constant delicate water flow is needed to keep the jellyfish in suspension. Each exhibit requires rounded corners that prevent jellyfish from getting stuck, while water circulates around the perimeter to prevent settling at the bottom.
When the project is completed in early 2019, visitors will explore the intriguing world of jellyfish, and discover the fascinating truth about these beautiful yet mysterious animals. The interpretative experience will guide audiences through a dynamic gallery, themed around the importance of jellyfish to this ocean planet.
"It's an exciting part of the new direction that we are taking the aquarium," Executive Director Gary Siddall said. "We're focused on embracing dynamic change and looking for innovative opportunities to bring in new animals to the collection. With the support of Gov. Cuomo, the First Niagara Foundation in partnership with KeyBank, and the community, we are seeing our forward-moving direction pay off and the jellyfish exhibit will keep that momentum going strong."
ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "The Aquarium of Niagara Falls first-ever jellyfish exhibit is a welcome addition - just like the penguins have been - and will no doubt add to the record number of visitors who are boosting New York state's tourism industry - one that is vital to our economic growth."
Jeff Belt, WNYREDC co-chair and SolEpoxy Inc. president, said, "People, especially children, have a fascination with what's under the sea. The REDC was pleased to provide funding for the jellyfish exhibit because it is a sure hit that will draw more visitors to Niagara Falls and entice them to stay longer."
Dr. Virginia Horvath, WNYREDC co-chair and president of the State University of New York at Fredonia, said, "The 'Aliens of the Sea' exhibit is an exciting addition to an already-premier tourist destination, which will attract even more families to come enjoy the beauty of Niagara Falls and this region. The REDC looks forward to seeing the visitor numbers grow thanks to the work being done at the aquarium."
Destination Niagara USA President and CEO John Percy said, "We are thrilled with the significant effort recently put forth by the Aquarium of Niagara to improve the overall quality of their visitor experience. The new 'Aliens of the Sea' exhibit will join the recent opening of 'Penguin Coast' in giving visitors and residents year-round access to fun, interactive and modern attractions. Congratulations to the Aquarium of Niagara on this extremely exciting transformation."
City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "Today is another exciting day for the Aquarium of Niagara with the construction announcement for yet another family-friendly exhibit to expand and extend visitation to Western New York's only aquarium and our region. I look forward to the completion of the 'Aliens of the Sea' exhibit and thank Gov. Cuomo and our partners in state government for their continued investment in one of our premiere tourist attractions."
New York State Sen. Rob Ortt said, "I am thrilled to see yet another investment made into the Aquarium of Niagara, adding on to the recently constructed 'Penguin Coast' exhibit. Not only will this new jellyfish display help bring back those residents and tourists who have already visited our aquarium, but the exotic nature of these 'Aliens of the Sea' is sure to capture the attention and imagination of parents and children alike. These colorful invertebrates of the deep will certainly add to the wonderful collection of sea creatures that currently call the Aquarium of Niagara home, creating a new and exciting experience for all families."
Assemblyman Angelo Morinello said, "I want to congratulate the Aquarium of Niagara for this groundbreaking announcement regarding the new jellyfish exhibit. The aquarium has been making great progress with the recent opening of the new penguin exhibit. I am proud to be representing the district hosting this fantastic attraction. I want to thank the aquarium for continuing to invest in our great city of Niagara Falls, and I wish Gary Siddall and his team the best of luck with this new project."
Congressman Brian Higgins said, "The aquarium continues to be one of the feature family and tourist attractions in Niagara Falls. Continued investment expands opportunities for learning, regional economic growth, and adds to the visitor experience."