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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

$40M Oceanarium Plan Gets City Hall Approval

Mayor Yury Luzhkov on Monday approved the construction of what City Hall and New Zealand-based company Marinescape say will be the biggest oceanarium in the world.

The $40 million project will cover 4 hectares in the eastern part of Poklonnaya Gora and feature a giant, 13,000-square-meter aquarium containing 11 million liters of fresh and salt water, as well as 10,000 different types of fish, according to Interfax.

A projected 15,000 visitors per day will be able to visit the center's tropical rain forest and beach as well as shops, laboratories, underwater restaurant and other attractions, including a registry office where Muscovites can tie the knot as 3-meter sharks glide above them.

City Hall said the ambitious project would be open to the public by Sept. 1, 2003, but industry players say that may be overly optimistic.

Kevin Turner, from British-based Aquarium Technology Ltd., which has equipped 36 Sea Life centers throughout Europe and counts Marinescape among its competitors, said the deadline was a tight one.

"They're certainly going to have their work cut out -- mobilizing somewhere like Russia and building it in this time," he said.

Marinescape head Ian Mellsop said his company will invest $40 million in the project, Interfax reported. The amount will be raised from the company's own funds and loans.

Mellsop could not be contacted Monday.

Marinescape is working together with Integrated Solutions Group, which provides services to the leisure industry worldwide. ISB is coordinating the project with Moscow Trade House, to which the 4-hectare plot has been leased for 49 years, said the company's operations director, David Standing. In projects of this kind it is normal for the foreign contractors to retain a stake in the project, he said.

Standing said he expected most of the construction work would be performed by supervised local labor.

Although no tender had been announced for the project, Standing said there had been competitive bids coming in from other suppliers.

Integrated Solutions Group is involved in a similar project with Marinescape in Kazakhstan for the construction of a large indoor theme park, and is also working with Moscow Trade House on another City Hall project with TV-Center to supply a four-studio TV station.

Engineers have already signed off on the third stage of the TV-Center project, Standing said.

Integrated Solutions Group is part of the Westcom group of companies.

According to Aquarium Technology's Turner, most new developments of this kind tout themselves as being world leaders in some way, be it length of tunnels, depth or total area.

"In this game everybody is pushing the boundaries in one way or form," Turner said.

Americans and Japanese aquarium builders, for instance, are always fighting over who can build the biggest windows, he said.