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The Aquarium of Niagara has selected Turner Construction Co. as the project manager for its first expansion in the organization’s 58-year history. The $5 million Great Lakes 360 project, which was formally announced in December, will be a living museum featuring the notable wildlife of the Niagara River and larger Great Lakes ecosystem. The project augments the Aquarium of Niagara’s geographical footprint and establishes the organization as a campus in downtown Niagara Falls.
Under an agreement with New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Aquarium of Niagara will renovate the vacant Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, also known as the Schoellkopf Geological Museum. The 5,000-square-foot building is situated just 500 feet southwest of the Aquarium’s main building, within the boundaries of the Niagara Falls State Park, and at the precipice of the Niagara Gorge.
A press release stated, “The Aquarium will celebrate its proximity to the natural wonder of Niagara Falls by ensuring a seamless guest experience that spans across indoor and outdoor spaces.
President and CEO Gary Siddall said, “We are embarking on something extraordinarily significant for ecotourism in our region thanks to a fortified alliance with New York State Parks. Visitors will have the opportunity to feel the mist coming off the falls, take to the trails to explore unique areas of the Niagara Gorge, then come to Great Lakes 360 and really get to know the animals they may have just encountered outside through hands-on experiences and compelling interpretation.”
State Parks Niagara Region Director Mark Mistretta said, “NYS Parks is thrilled to be partnering with the Aquarium of Niagara on this innovative project to reimagine the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. The Niagara River and the Great Lakes are incredible natural resources unique to our region, so to have an opportunity to tell their stories is exciting. We look forward to the opening of this new attraction that will only add to the already dynamic offerings of the Aquarium of Niagara, and the state park as a whole.”
Great Lakes 360 will feature 15 brand-new exhibits, increasing the Aquarium of Niagara’s total number of exhibits by 40%. The animal collection will incorporate turtles, amphibians, insects and many species of fish, all of which are native to the Great Lakes.
Renderings provided by the Aquarium of Niagara
The Aquarium of Niagara has tapped the expertise of CPL Architecture and Tenji Aquarium Design + Build “to create a truly immersive and inclusive experience that encourages guests to chart their own paths of discovery with opportunities for crawling, manipulating interpretive devices, and even enjoying tactile interaction with animals.
“Turner Construction was retained by the Aquarium based on credentialed leadership in construction projects across Western New York and beyond. Construction management will involve the careful coordination of exhibit fabricators, contractors, interpretative specialists and animal care experts. The company led the $3.8 million renovation of the Aquarium’s ‘Penguin Coast’ exhibit in 2018 and has worked with several other aquariums, including the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the New England Aquarium in Boston, and the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn. Together, the Aquarium and Turner Construction are committed to creating a destination in Great Lakes 360 that elevates the status of both the Aquarium and the broader Niagara Falls tourism corridor.”
Turner Construction Co. VP and Business Manager Steven Perrigo said, “The Aquarium of Niagara is a destination and one of the best places to visit in the Falls. Being a part of the Great Lakes 360 project team is thrilling for Turner and our employees. We know and value the significant impact this project will have on education, conservation, research and recreation for both our community and visitors from outside the region. While all our projects are significant to us, the ones that provide direct benefits to our community hold a special place.”
The press release stated, “The Great Lakes 360 project builds upon a strategic commitment to rebranding the Aquarium inside and out, including more than $10 million in new exhibits and visitor amenities. The completed project will demonstrate the Aquarium’s dedication to providing an enhanced visitor experience through dynamic and engaging exhibits. The indoor, year-round attraction will be accessible in tandem with the Aquarium’s main building via a single general admission ticket and is expected to welcome more than 200,000 visitors annually.”
Construction is projected to be complete in spring 2024.
For more information on Turner Construction Co., visit http://www.turnerconstruction.com.
More About the Aquarium of Niagara
The Aquarium of Niagara is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that, with the community and partners, celebrates natural wonders and inspires people to make a difference for aquatic life. It is home to more than 120 different species, including nine rescued and nonreleasable marine mammals. The venue is open daily at 9 a.m., except for Christmas and Thanksgiving. For more information, visit www.aquariumofniagara.org.