Construction has begun on Ripley's Aquarium of Canada at the foot of the CN Tower. As is the case with all forms of entertainment, how the aquarium is received will depend on managing expectations. Those who seek a Chicago Shedd Aquarium equivalent will be disappointed: the Ripley's Aquarium will not be housed in classical Greek architecture, it will not have a dolphin tank overlooking the lake, and it will also lack 80 years of history and investment. Those who expect a Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Shark Reef experience may be pleasantly surprised: sharks and stingrays will be there, but so will thousands of additional underwater creatures to keep your interest for more than half an hour. Ripley's Aquarium will also have a very lengthy under water tunnel.

 one of the most colourful construction barriers in TorontoRipley's Aquarium of Canada: one of the most colourful construction barriers in the city, image by Isidoros Kyrlangitses

Ripley's Aquarium is looking to compliment the existing travel destinations of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre, the CN tower, and the SkyDome Rogers Centre. The aquarium will be conveniently located for a busy convention attendee needing a break, a rail buff with more than one interest, a CN Tower tourist looking to add to their experience, or a family preferring an alternative to a bar before the game.  For Torontonians it will offer another family friendly option to bring the kids downtown.

Aquarium construction underway at the base of the CN Tower, TorontoRipley's Aquarium of Canada: construction underway at the base of the CN Tower, image by Isidoros Kyrlangitses

From the current construction site passersby might note the SkyWalk exit to the CN Tower has been closed. While the mayor argued for parking near the aquarium, the City missed the opportunity to extend the SkyWalk as an enclosed PATH all the way to the CN Tower. The SkyWalk will connect to the aquarium, but any visitors to the CN Tower in winter can still expect a chilling wind-whipped walk.

Ripley's Aquarium construction at the CN Tower, TorontoRipley's Aquarium of Canada: construction has blocked the SkyWalk exit to the CN Tower, image by Isidoros Kyrlangitses

The Conservation program will include breeding of endangered species, while the Education program will cater to school groups to expand aquatic life knowledge.

 Science Education CentreRipley's Aquarium of Canada: Science Education Centre, image courtesy of Ripley Entertainment Inc.

The aquarium will be the largest tourist attraction added to the city since the Hockey Hall of Fame. Some might hope for it to be even bigger. When initially announced it was to be built in two phases, the first at approximately 100,000 square feet, and the second adding another 50,000 square feet. Now the plan is a single buildout at 135,000 square feet.

Ripley's Aquarium does have the potential of becoming a regional destination like the Monterey Bay Aquarium or the Shedd Aquarium, but we still hope the 2013 opening is just the start. We hope Ripley's plan allows for expansion, whether up, or out if there is any remaining space left around it. Shedd Aquarium has five times the volume of water of the proposed Toronto aquarium, allowing the visitor to stroll through constantly changing environments until they realize half the day has gone by. Ripley's Aquarium of Canada should have that grand vision for its facility, and not just be a Convention Centre aside.

 Tropical Reef viewing windowRipley's Aquarium of Canada: Tropical Reef viewing window, image courtesy of Ripley Entertainment Inc.

For many more views of the coming facility, check out UrbanToronto's dataBase listing for Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, linked below. You can also join in on the discussion in our forum at the Projects and Construction link below!