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Work officially begins on Aquarium's forthcoming jellyfish exhibit

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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In its 53 years of existence, the Aquarium of Niagara has never included jellyfish among its collection of aquatic creatures. That will change in early 2019. Leaders gathered Friday morning to announce that work has officially begun on a new jellyfish display at the Niagara Falls attraction.

The approximately $440,000 project, when finished, will include several displays including three tubular tanks that will allow viewers to watch the creatures from all sides. Gary Siddall, the aquarium's executive director, explained that the lighting will play a key role as well.

"For the most impactful experience, we've worked very hard to carefully select a lighting system that will adequately capture the very delicate movement of these animals through the water," Siddall said. 

An estimated 100 specimens from four species will reside in the exhibit, Siddall added.

New York State, through the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, is providing a capital grant of $68,000 to assist with construction costs. State Senator Robert Ortt, one of several lawmakers present for Friday's announcement, said the state and Niagara County Industrial Development Agency have provided the Niagara Falls tourism district with approximately $1.5 million per year for the past three years. He says this latest grant is not the state simply investing in jellyfish but improving the region's tourism assets.

"The point of this funding was to support brick-and-mortar tourism-related retail type establishments within a one- to two-mile radius in downtown Niagara Falls," Ortt said. "The feeling was that area needed an investment. It was an area where we want to draw more people and if we could do that, you create that engine in your downtown and that spreads throughout the city."

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Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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Representatives of the Aquarium of Niagara, New York State, City of Niagara Falls, KeyBank and First Niagara Foundation ceremonially fill small replicas of jellyfish tanks that will highlight the aquarium's "Aliens of the Sea" exhibit, which is expected to open in early 2019. It will be the first-ever jellyfish display at the Niagara Falls facility in its 53-year history.

KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation are providing $150,000 toward the project. KeyBank regional president Buford Sears expressed an appreciation for the Aquarium as an asset not just for Niagara Falls but for Western New York. Speakers including Sears noted that the next nearest US-based Aquarium  is located in Pennsylvania.

"This exhibit will be the first of its kind in our region," he said. "This will provide visitors with a fascinating interactive experience which will enable them to learn about these unique sea creatures in a beautiful new habitat."

Speakers joked that what the new exhibit will obviously not be is hands-on, noting the painful stings for which jellyfish are known.

This launch of this project comes following the recent grand opening of a new $3.5 million penguin habitat. The Aquarium of Niagara draws an estimated 270,000 per year and, with its new exhibits, is hoping to add another 30,000 visitors per year.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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