OdySea Aquarium opens with anticipation amid controversy

It is one of the largest aquariums in the nation but OdySea has dealt with controversy long before its Sept. 3 opening

The OdySea Aquarium’s “Living Sea Carousel” is a 20-minute carousel experience that takes guests around four exhibits that feature rays, marine turtles, seals, sea lions and various sharks.

Rachel White, Reporter, Scottsdale Chronicle

OdySea Aquarium, located east of Scottsdale’s Loop 101 off the Via de Ventura exit, hosted a media day Sept. 7, four days after the Sept. 3 grand opening.

OdySea Arizona representatives said that the attraction is unique to Arizona because it will house a large-scale aquatic experience previously unavailable to desert sightseers. OdySea Aquarium is said to be able to accommodate more than 30,000 marine animals with over 50 exhibits.

According to the OdySea website odyseaaquarium.com, the 2 million-gallon aquarium, which will cost more than $100 million, will be among the largest in the nation, surpassing major aquariums in Houston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle.

Jennifer Jones, an Animal Care Specialist at OdySea Aquarium, spoke of the distinct nature of North Scottsdale’s new aquarium.

“I think the most important thing is that we do live in a desert, so sometimes people become a little disconnected from our ocean world and we just wanted to bring awareness that water is a very important source of life and that it is very vital in us conserving and protecting it,” Jones said.

OdySea employee Amy Nguyen says that it took two hours for people to actually get inside the aquarium during the “soft” opening.

“There were so many cars they [guests] had to park a mile away by the freeway,” Nguyen said. “We are working on running this place.  It’s still a soft open but we’re trying our best.”

The aquarium asks a single-day admission rate of entry at $34.95 for adult and $24.95 for children and expects seasonal visitation for guests. Exhibitions vary in experience from bystander-based attractions like the 3D Theater to interactive participation such as SeaTREK Helmet Diving. Jones is optimistic that the aquarium will not become dull as OdySea plans to add on exhibits in the future.

“The aquarium is constantly evolving,” Jones said. “We’re always adding on more to our exhibits and animals are learning more things, so I believe every experience will be unique and it’ll never be a repeat visit.”

Another attraction slated to open near OdySea Arizona is Dolphinaris, a concept that has garnered some critcism.  It is owned by a Mexico company that has at least five other “dolphinariums” in various locations. In an April 29 azcentral.com story titled “Will tourists soon swim with captive dolphins near Scottsdale?

Dolphinaris offers an actual “swim with the dolphins” attraction that has fueled media coverage from animal activists around the world, as well as an online petition over concerns that the dolphins would be forced to swim in “endless circles” and be fed dead fish, among other unnatural habitat assertions.

“Dolphinaris is not affiliated with the aquarium,” OdySea Aquairum spokeswoman Debi Bridges said according to the same azcentral.com story.