A London-based entertainment company is bringing its expertise in aquariums to the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills, building an aquatic attraction inside the shopping and entertainment complex.
Sea Life, which has more than 40 aquarium attractions around the world and six in the U.S., will be built in what used to be a GameWorks. Demolition on the space started about two weeks ago. The complicated project will take more than a year with an opening date expected by April or May 2015, says Scott Berlow, general manager of Great Lakes Crossing Outlets.
Sea Life Michigan will give visitors up-close looks at more than 30 displays that are centered around a tropical ocean tank with a walkthrough underwater tunnel.
United Kingdom-headquartered Merlin Entertainments, owners of Sea Life, also build Legolands and numerous other themed attractions in 12 countries and three continents.
Berlow says the company chose Auburn Hills and Great Lakes because of its draw for tourists, including Canadians and because of its connection to international and national auto suppliers who bring families to Michigan to live permanently or on extended stays. He says 21 percent of visitors to Great Lakes Crossing are tourists that have traveled from more than 50 miles away.
“We know Sea Life draws from more than 100 miles,” Berlow says. “This is going to be a great attraction. Certainly for a number of miles, there really is nothing that exists like this….They really ID’d the area for a variety of reasons. It’s always location, location, location. The access to I-75 was important too.”
Berlow says Sea Life builds on the “entertainment” in the Great Lakes motto: Shopping, Dining and Entertainment. Sea Life will be located across from Rainforest Cafe.
“You’d think they’d have a problem with that, but actually they’re thrilled.” Sea Life complements Rainforest Cafe as well as the Bass Pro Shop, which is also a draw for metro Detroiters and tourists alike. Field trips will be a regular part of Sea Life Michigan, which has a classroom and field-trip educators on staff and places an emphasis on conservation.
The aquarium at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets will, like the others, will be an immersive and educational experience that puts visitors up close to ocean life. But aquarium visitors will also learn about lake species. Sea Life is also involved in rescue operations.
The plans for Sea Life Michigan call for more than 30 displays of shrimp, sharks, sea rays, sea horses and starfish. The unique Great Lakes element will feature creatures most associated with the Great Lakes region.
“The naysayers would say we’ve got a foreign company coming into the area…This creates jobs. This is good for business…It’s all positive.”
Source: Scott Berlow, general manager, Great Lakes Crossing Outlets
Writer: Kim North Shine