The attraction plans to grow by about 6,000 square feet by extending the building toward the
"We hope that the timing is right now," said
Construction on the expansion is expected to start in September and wrap up in June, just in time for the busy summer tourism season next year. The aquarium plans to stay open throughout the construction, Atkins said.
When the work is done, visitors will notice a difference in entering the attraction, with a new ticket area and expanded lobby-plaza.
Officials picked penguins as the new star attraction to add a different element to the aquarium's offerings -- "Everything we have now is pretty much a fish," Atkins said -- and because guests have asked for them, officials said. Penguins also are a popular attraction at the Ripley's aquarium in
"They are really neat animals and visitors make a connection with them. There is a bit of personality with these animals," Atkins said. "We think they will be a big hit."
The exhibit will include a crawl through tunnel and pop-up bubble windows for kids to get an up-close look at the penguins. Officials still are deciding other details, including how many penguins the exhibit will hold, Atkins said.
Other details -- including the exact cost of the expansion and whether ticket prices will go up -- are still being worked out, Atkins said.
Ripley's is known for its tunnel that allows visitors to get an underwater view of the sharks and other creatures, as well as for its stingrays and interactive features. All the usual exhibits will remain, except for the water fountain with statues near the aquarium's current entrance, which will have to move to make way for the new ticket area.
Ripley's Aquarium has been one of the most popular attractions at
"One reason that we believe the aquarium continues to be so popular is that its exhibits are regularly updated and additions are made, keeping the attraction fresh," B&C spokeswoman
Last week, the 85,000-square-foot aquarium was named one of the top 12 aquariums in the nation by DestinationsTravelMagazine.com.
Ripley's also owns several attractions along
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