John Ball Zoo begins study on potential aquarium

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Courtesy John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo will conduct a joint study with Kent County and the city of Muskegon to decide where to build an aquarium in West Michigan.

The 12-month study will determine which site — either in the city of Muskegon or Kent County — would be an economically feasible location for the potential John Ball Aquarium.

“We’re humbled to work with two great community partners in exploring both amazing locations,” said Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo.

John Ball Zoo envisions having a fresh and saltwater aquarium with a million or more gallons of water, a shark tank, a living coral reef, jellyfish and floor-to-ceiling viewing walls with walkthrough tunnels. The zoo also imagines an educational aspect where the exhibits will educate visitors on saltwater and freshwater ecosystems, including the Great Lakes.

“The city of Muskegon economic development team takes a regional approach to growth for the community we serve,” said Jake Eckholm, director of development services for the city of Muskegon. “We are very grateful for the opportunity to be considered in this feasibility and economic impact analysis and are confident Muskegon will shine as a desirable option to consider. We thank the board and administration at John Ball Zoo for the partnership in allowing our city to participate in this process.”

“A world-class aquarium would be another phenomenal attraction in the Grand Rapids area,” said Al Vanderberg, Kent County administrator/controller. “When you consider the land and water trail network that will go from the beach in Grand Haven to eastern Kent County and the huge number of amenity linkages created by that system, the aquarium would be another anchor to ultimately bring millions of folks to our community and the greater region.”

D’Arienzo added the results of the comprehensive study will help define the most successful location to ensure success and to drive the greatest community impact as a national tourist destination.

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