“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take, and if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur”.
Feb 8, 2017, Steven Totten Reporter Phoenix Business Journal
Since opening the Butterfly Wonderland exhibit in 2013, the attractions on the 35-acre OdySea in the Desert entertainment center have continually grown.
The 200,000-square-foot OdySea Aquarium and controversial Dolphinaris Arizona both opened late last year on the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community.
An underwater walkway is part of the attractions at the OdySea Aquarium.
But that’s only the beginning.
The center is currently adding two more attractions: a mine experience modeled after the Four Peaks Amethyst mine and an ice-filled environment called Polar Play. Both are under construction. The mine should be open in the next week or two and Polar Play will open in the next month, according to lead developer Dr. Amram Knishinsky.
Restaurants are filling out the center next to OdySea Aquarium as well, including a Johnny Rockets and a coffee and cake bakery.
After those projects are done, Knishinsky plans to build a 179-foot Ferris wheel called Sky Wheel at Talking Stick. The plans for the Ferris wheel have been submitted to the community, and Knishinksy expects his team to get approval by April.
Sky Wheel construction is expected to take nine to 12 months.
Other major plans are in the pipeline as well. Knishinsky has partnered with David Calvin, owner of AZ Birds, and Jerry Rubenstein, former head of United Artists Records, to create what Kinishinsky calls “the largest indoor rainforest aviary in the country.”
“Those are ideas that were always on the table with us; the question was at what stage would they be developed and when are we going to start working on them,” he said.
The project, dubbed Paradise Earth, would span 3 acres and reach 80 feet in the air, featuring 4,000 to 5,000 different types of birds, as well as a central tree that would have an elevator, leading up to a treehouse with a balcony.
The attraction will feature interactive programs, a large screen 3-D theater with stadium seating, a variety of monkeys that are part of the amazon area, an amphitheater for bird shows, waterfalls, a diverse collection of plants, restaurants and a gift shop.
The project is currently in the design phase. The experience would take about two and a half hours to see everything, and the team has a budget of $50 million to put the project together, Knishinsky said.
If approved, construction would take 15 to 16 months, beginning in the third quarter of this year.
“It’s an opportunity for millions of people who are bird watchers,” Knishinsky said. “It’s one of the top hobbies in the country.”
Knishinsky is in talks with a local architectural group to create a dinosaur-themed park as well, which would undergo buildout around the same time as Paradise Earth.
All of Knishinsky’s plans coincide to create a full-fledged theme park. And with that aspiration, Knishinsky also wants to build a hotel in the entertainment destination.
Knishinsky said he envisions a 150-room hotel with suites that include a kitchenette, in the style of a Hyatt Place.
“It will enable visitors to stay on the premises because there will be enough to do for more than one day,” he said. “If we can attract, and we do already, people from Tucson, for example, they can spend one day visiting the butterflies and aquarium, maybe go to the dolphinarium and eat at all the restaurants, and the next day visit Paradise Earth and the dinosaur park.”
The Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community has been bustling in terms of entertainment, and will likely continue to do so, with the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, which is where the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks play during Cactus League spring training, and the location for the Russo & Steele auto auction; a TopGolf driving range; a new indoor skydiving facility; and Roadhouse Cinemas.
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