Native American influence courses through OdySea Aquarium

OdySea opens this summer and its design has more than meets the eye


Marissa Johnson/Scottsdale Chronicle

The OdySea Aquarium, located just off the 101 on Native American land, is slated to cover 200,000 square feet and hold two million gallons of water. It is set to open in July.

Marissa Johnson, Reporter, Scottsdale Chronicle

The OdySea Aquarium has been the talk of the Valley for almost a year now. Doors should be ready to open this July and the aquarium is on the fast track to bringing in plenty of locals and tourists from all over the state and country. What many people may not know about the aquarium is that it is being constructed on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community reservation.

The OdySea project had been the subject of debate years before people saw the building go up. Tribal employee Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez, the Marketing Manager for the Talking Stick Destination Area, revealed the process that led to OdySea’s development.

“The aquarium is a project that has been in exploration for over seven years and is the end result of a dream from the same creative developer who brought us Butterfly Wonderland,” McAnlis-Vasquez said.

In addition to standing on native American land, the exterior design is influenced by traditional O’odham or Pima baskets. The interior design will contain elements that will be recognized by the sister tribes of SRP-MIC.

“Once complete, there will be four major walkways into the facility and each will be named after area rivers, IE- Salt and Gila River pathways,” McAnils-Vasquez said. “Concept renderings show these walkways showcasing native plants and contemporary art that will tell the story of water and its impact on the land that we call home.”

The aquarium hopes to shine a light on some cultural aspects that represent indigenous tribes in Arizona. Martha Ludlow Martinez is a tribal enrolled member and the current Miss Scottsdale Community College. She is hopeful that the new aquarium will bring accurate knowledge of SRP-MIC.

“Ultimately I hope it’s something good,” Martinez said. “I know [the OdySea Team] have a lot of consultation with our cultural department. For me I really would like to see that there’s some cultural aspects in there and from the looks of it there are. But hoping they depict accurately or best they can about the rivers that run through our community, what this means to us and our people. Because water for both O’odham and Piipaash [Maricopa] are highly regarded. We always want to depict the indigenous people that are here being on the tribe.”

The OdySea team is going out their way to learn cultural knowledge while SRP-MIC is guiding them with their core ambition.

“Our Community Development team has worked closely with the OdySea team since conception and will continue to work with them after they open their doors to the public,” McAnils-Vasquez said. “We are here to help make the process as easy as possible as their success is also our success.”