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Aquarium unveils new master plan for year-round visitors

Mike Desmond
Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino (l) greets an Aquarium resident at the master plan unveiling.

The seals were outside the Aquarium of Niagara paddling around, while the sea lions were inside racing around their large pool. Neither knew they will be getting much larger homes in the not-too-distant future.Aquarium Executive Director Gary Siddall said the facility is upping its game and the new master plan will show the way to go, with the water moving quickly below the surface.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
The main event at the Aquarium is the sea lion pool.

"We have been very, very quickly moving resources into position to do some impactful things, and while that water has been moving quickly below the surface, what we hope that Western New York will realize is we are about to make a lot of waves," Siddall said. "We are about to do something impactful. We are about to make a difference and we are about to become an asset that Western New York across the board will be incredibly proud to call their Aquarium of Niagara."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Lots of sea creatures on display at the Aquarium.

Wednesday night, the Niagara County attraction talked about its efforts for a new master plan, renovations and further expansion beyond Shark and Ray Bay, which is under construction just down the hall from the area used for the event. It will open in June.

The Aquarium has become important in Niagara Falls' continuing efforts to create year-round business for the city's hospitality industry. Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino said year-round attractions are essential.

"That's the biggest challenge right now. How do we expand the tourist season beyond that period that everybody focuses on?" he said. "And so, with attractions like this and others that are in the development stage, we ought to be able to expand the experience of Niagara Falls beyond just the spring, summer and early fall."

Restaino said he knows that once the Aquarium master plan is complete, the attraction might well be back to him looking for some help with that plan.

Credit MIke Desmond / WBFO News
Different habitats are also on display at the Aquarium.

"We are an institution that provides home to rescued and non-releasable animals," said Siddall. "We are not the bad guys. We are the ones providing a forever home for animals that would otherwise have a horrible outcome living out in the wild. So it's hard to look from any other perspective than that we are the ones doing the right thing by thinking about these animals, by taking action, by spending money to promote their longevity."

While the sea lions were racing around on one side of the announcement area, the Humboldt penguins sat and watched the speakers and the human visitors from their indoor habitat, opened two years ago.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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