By Faroe Decker
Tourists flock to Utah to gaze at the desert landscapes, sculpted rock arches and red stone cliffs- and blacktip reef sharks.
Utah may not be known as a place to see amazing sea life, but aquarium founder Brent Anderson wants that to change. His project, a 10,000 square-foot preview aquarium called “The Aquarium Experience” opened last Friday, June 4, at The Gateway in Salt Lake City.
Anderson is trying to give taxpayers the option of building a $47 million, 90,000 square-foot aquarium in downtown Salt Lake by putting the aquarium on the ballot in the fall.
The Salt Lake County Council will decide if they are going to put the bond issue to a public vote in November.
“It”s an opportunity for taxpayers to vote on whether they want the full scale aquarium to come to Utah and put their money towards it,” said Shey Bitton, public relations director for “The Aquarium Experience.”
Several patrons thought the existing facility was nice, but they wished it were bigger.
Anderson grew up in Utah, worked for an aquarium in California, then moved back to Utah and decided to develop an aquarium here.
“We really just wanted to bring a lot of different animals from the ocean that Utah residents may not have the opportunity to see, such as moray eels, some of the tiger fish and the poisonous fish here… just different animals that people wouldn”t be able to see if they were to just go to the ocean,” Bitton said.
The most popular exhibits are the 14,000-gallon blacktip reef shark tank and the tide pool touch tank where patrons can pet stingrays and hold starfish. “The Aquarium Experience” also includes a freshwater stream that exhibits some of Utah”s native fish, an amphibian exhibit, a coral reef exhibit, a 100 year-old lobster and a giant octopus.
The new aquarium would have three different levels, an Amazon rain forest exhibit, a tropical pacific coral reef, and a larger Utah rivers, lakes and streams exhibit.
“We want to put a lot of different things in the full size aquarium; whether it”s different children”s events, a giant globe, larger sea life, bigger sharks, bigger tanks, more fish… things like that,” Bitton said.
If the Salt Lake County Council puts the aquarium bond on the ballot taxpayers will vote whether to cover $30 million of the permanent aquarium”s $47 million price tag.
“The Aquarium Experience” is open everyday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and costs $7.50 for adults and $4.50 for children.