Ripley’s Begins Building $130-Million World-Class Family Aquarium in Toronto

TORONTO (Aug. 17, 2011) – Toronto is one big step closer to getting a major new attraction as Ripley Entertainment Inc. and dignitaries from all three levels of government gathered at the base of the CN Tower to announce details of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada — a $130-million facility  now under construction and set to open during the summer of 2013.

1.5 million gallons of water and thousands of fish

“What I like most about an aquarium is that all ages, from toddlers to pre-schoolers to retired grandparents can really enjoy the wonders of the sea,” said Jim Pattison, Chairman and CEO of the Jim Pattison Group, which owns Ripley Entertainment Inc. “I want to thank all of the people in Ontario that have helped us bring this aquarium to Toronto.”

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Pattison made the announcement today with federal MP Ted Opitz, Ontario Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Mark Laroche President and CEO Canada Lands Company, and Jim Pattison Jr., President of Ripley Entertainment Inc.

“Canada Lands Company is investing more than $10 million to redevelop the John Street corridor with new signage and other improvements that will increase and improve the flow of pedestrian traffic from Front Street to the site. This is an important entryway to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, as well as the CN Tower and Rogers Centre,” said Mark Laroche, President and CEO of Canada Lands, which owns the land the Aquarium will be built on.

“The McGuinty government is proud to support the development of the first Ripley’s Aquarium in Canada,” said Michael Chan, Ontario Minister of Tourism and Culture.  “Getting an aquarium of this calibre in Toronto is a major win for our province. It will entertain and educate, bring in millions of visitors, fill our hotels and create hundreds of jobs for Ontario families.”

“This state-of-the art facility will provide jobs for our residents and a wonderful tourist attraction for our city. I want to thank Jim Pattison for being here with us today, as Toronto could not have found a better company to work with to develop this major new attraction,” said Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto. The City of Toronto will provide property tax incentives (estimated to be between $8 million and $12 million) over a 12-year period under the Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation, Technology (IMIT) Grants program; which supports new building construction in targeted sectors, including tourism.

“Toronto is a world-class city and we are building a world-class aquarium,” said Jim Pattison Jr., President of Ripley Entertainment Inc. “It’s about fish, family and fun, education and entertainment — along with a commitment to conservation and animal welfare. Ripley’s Aquarium will attract families from across Toronto, Canada and worldwide, and will generate significant jobs and economic activity in both the short- and long-term.”

Quick Facts

*       Aquarium construction will create more than 600 jobs, generating an immediate economic impact of more than $50 million, $35 million of which will be labor income.  In addition, during the two-year construction timeline, the project is forecast to generate more than $25 million in taxes for all three levels of government;

*     When operational, the Aquarium will generate 300 to 350 jobs and will have a projected annual economic impact of more than $35 million on GDP;

*     During the first 20 years of operation, the Aquarium is expected to generate more than $220 million in tax revenues for all three levels of government;

*     The most exciting new family attraction in Toronto since the Hockey Hall of Fame, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is expected to draw nearly two-million visitors each year;

*     The 135,00-square-foot Aquarium will be one of the largest in North America, with a capacity of 1.5-million gallons;

*      Featuring 450 species, the Aquarium will be home to more than 13,500 inhabitants;   *       The two existing U.S. Ripley’s aquariums are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the organization that sets and maintains the highest level of animal welfare standards, a distinction of which the company is proud;

*       The Aquarium will conduct ongoing breeding/conservation programs for endangered species, including ongoing tagging and tracking programs for sand tiger sharks in conjunction with universities and government agencies;

About Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, set to open in summer 2013, is a member of the Ripley Entertainment family of worldwide entertainment facilities, which includes two existing aquariums.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tenn., is the second-most-visited attraction in the state, and was voted the No. 1 aquarium in America by TripAdvisor.com. Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is that state’s most visited attraction. The two aquariums have entertained nearly 30 million visitors since 1997.

Ripley’s aquariums are known for their shark exhibits that feature 10-foot sharks and two of the longest underwater tunnels in North America. More than 12 million people visit Ripley’s 80-plus attractions in 11 countries each year. Ripley Entertainment Inc. is a division of the Jim Pattison Group, the third-largest privately held company in Canada.

For more detailed information, additional high-resolution downloadable photos and renderings, and broadcast quality b-roll, please visit RipleysAquariumofCanada.com

BACKGROUND and MORE FACTS ON
RIPLEY’S AQUARIUM OF CANADA

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is a 135,000-square-foot major family attraction with 1.5-million gallons of marine and freshwater habitats from across the world. Among the many exciting interactive exhibits for families and school groups, the Aquarium will contain:

*       More than 13,500 exotic sea and freshwater creatures, comprising more than 450 species;

*     A unique 315 foot moving walkway through an acrylic tunnel deep below the 750,000-gallon Shark Lagoon, a habitat occupied by 10 – to 12-foot sand tiger sharks, largetooth sawfish and dozens of other species. Guests may step on and off the walkway as they choose to spend extra time admiring the huge sharks;

*     Main exhibition includes a tropical reef tank, along with Great Lakes exhibits and Atlantic and Pacific habitats;

*      A Marine and Freshwater Education Centre with dedicated classroom space;

*      Flexible and changing exhibition space;

*      Food service and retail store.

The Aquarium will be open 365-days-a-year, starting in the summer of 2013.

Economic Impact

*      Aquarium construction will create more than 600 jobs, generating an immediate economic impact of more than $50 million, $35 million of which will be labor income. In addition, during the two-year construction timeline the project is forecasted to generate more than $25 million in taxes for all three levels of government;

*      When operational, the Aquarium will generate 300 to 350 jobs and have a projected annual economic impact of more than $35 million on GDP;

*      During the first 20 years of operation, the Aquarium is expected to generate more than $220 million in tax revenues for all three levels of government.

Partners

*      Ripley Entertainment Inc. has partnered with the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario and the City of Toronto to bring this major attraction to Toronto, Ont., Canada;

*      Recognizing that the aquarium will be a landmark addition to Toronto, boost tourism and create more than 600 jobs, while generating an immediate economic impact of more than $50 million, all three levels of government have come together to support the project;

*      Canada Lands Company, a federal Crown corporation and owner of the land on which the aquarium is being built, is investing more than $10 million to redevelop the John Street corridor that includes new signage and improved access which will increase and enhance the flow of pedestrian traffic from Front Street. This is an important entryway to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, as well as the CN Tower and Rogers Centre, and will integrate the site into Toronto’s downtown ahead of the aquarium opening in 2013 and the Pan-Am Games in 2015;

*      The Government of Ontario is investing more than $11 million to support the construction of the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. This investment supports the government’s commitment to growing tourism, creating jobs and strengthening economic growth in Ontario;

*      The City of Toronto is providing property-tax incentives throughout a period of 12 years under the IMIT (Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology) program for Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. IMIT seeks to increase the number of new and renovated industrial and commercial properties throughout the City to support employment in targeted sectors, including tourism, and was unanimously approved in 2008 by City Council. The City’s property-tax incentive for the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is currently estimated at $8 million to $12 million.

Conservation and Education

Both existing Ripley aquariums (Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tenn.) are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the U.S. organization responsible for setting and maintaining the highest level of animal-welfare standards. Once completed and in full operation, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will seek full accreditation from AZA and the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA). Conservation and education features will include:

*      Well-trained staff, dedicated to the highest standards of aquatic husbandry;

*      A dedicated team of biologists, scientists, divers and aquarists who work diligently to assure all the animals are safe, well-tended to, and allowed to flourish;

*      Breeding/conservation programs for endangered species, including ongoing tagging and tracking programs for sand tiger sharks in conjunction with universities and government agencies;

*      Aquatic life-support systems with special recovery basins that reclaim, clean and re-use water;

*      Marine and freshwater science education and conservation programs designed to build understanding of the aquatic world;

*      Trained educators throughout the facility to answer questions and point out special areas of interest;

*      Programs to provide students and guests with an exciting interactive educational experience that is designed to meet the curriculum standards set forth by the Ontario Ministry of Education. Our goal is to provide students with a deeper understanding of why it is important to protect and conserve our aquatic environment;

*      We will provide guests with an interactive, educational experience while building an understanding of the aquatic world. This will be accomplished in a variety of programs,  including:

  • Public Presentations
  • Exciting Dive Shows
  • School Programs
  • Teacher Workshops
  • Outreach Programs
  • Birthday Celebrations
  • Overnight Adventures
  • Animal Interactive Programs
  • Scout Workshops
  • Special Events

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada plans to participate in the following activities:

  1. Earth Day Canada
  2. World Oceans Day
  3. Earth Hour
  4. The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup in conjunction with Vancouver Aquarium

All programs will provide quality, educational experiences that also promote conservation and entertainment.  Our programs are developed with a diverse population in mind, and will be taught both on-site and in the community through our outreach programs.

Conservation Leadership

The responsibility for animal welfare and conservation at the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada falls under the leadership of Joseph Choromanski, Vice President of Animal Husbandry.

With more than 30 years of marine-science experience, Choromanski holds a master’s degree in fisheries biology and a bachelor’s degree in marine biology. Together with his team of 34 marine biologists, scientists and veterinarians, he has overall responsibility for the company’s animal collection. Prior to joining the Ripley’s Aquarium team, Joe was the Curator of Husbandry Operations at California’s world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium; Assistant Director of Husbandry and Senior Curator of Water Quality and Animal Health at the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans, Louisiana;  and Aquarium Curator at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.

Joe is a recognized expert in animal husbandry with numerous published articles and has testified before the U.S. Congress on the conservation of sea turtles.  He is very active in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and has served on its Accreditation Commission for nine years. He currently serves on AZA’s Government Affairs and Wildlife Conservation Management Committees.

About Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, set to open in summer 2013, is a member of the Ripley Entertainment family of worldwide entertainment facilities, which includes two existing aquariums.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tenn., is the second-most-visited attraction in the state and was voted the No. 1 aquarium in America by TripAdvisor.com. Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is that state’s most visited attraction. The two aquariums have entertained nearly 30-million visitors since 1997.

Ripley’s aquariums are known for their shark exhibits that feature 10-foot sharks and two of the longest underwater tunnels in the world. More than 12 million people visit Ripley’s 80-plus attractions in 11 countries each year. Ripley Entertainment Inc. is a division of the Jim Pattison Group, the third-largest privately held company in Canada.

For more detailed information, high-resolution downloadable photos and renderings, and broadcast quality b-roll, please visit Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada’s website at www.ripleysaquariumofcanada.com.

Contacts:

Tim O’Brien
Vice President, Communications
Ripley Entertainment Inc
Office:  615-646-7465
Cell:  615-496-5949
obrien@ripleys.com

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