An Albany aquarium?

national aquarium baltimore

From the National Aquarium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor area.

Rob (@paintaneight) pointed out a recent letter to the editor in the TU calling for the construction of an aquarium in downtown Albany instead of a convention center. From the letter by Lino Verelli of Slingerlands:

... An educational center to see, feel and be able to interact with the creatures and beauty of the oceans.
Open seven days, it would provide jobs for a dedicated staff of professionals and the countless support services necessary to its maintenance.
If managed correctly, this center would generate jobs, sales taxes, hotel taxes, visitors' fees and something totally unique to the fabric of this city.

Rob was curious what people thought about this idea (we get the sense he likes it, but we're just reading between the tweets) -- and so are we. So, aquarium -- yes/no/maybe?

We re-tweeted Rob's question yesterday and there were a handful of responses -- they're after the jump. Update: We've also embedded comments from AOA's Facebook page.

Our initial reaction to the idea: skeptical. It seems like an urban planning cliche, a possible white elephant (or maybe "white whale" is more apt).

photo: Flickr user seannaber

From Facebook:


I have always been opposed to the convention center. I LOVE the idea of having an aquarium. I am personally such a huge fan that I would probably buy an annual pass (I honestly would go to the NEA twice a month if I could).

It sounds like it would be more effective at helping our economy rather than a sporadically used convention center.

Oh please, let's have an aquarium! I'm a marine biologist stranded inland and I would love to have an aquarium where I could do volunteer work.

Yes, a million times yes. It would be nice to have more things to do to while away a rainy afternoon (or winter afternoon, as the case may be) besides the NYS Museum or the Institute of History and Art. Or the mall.

Excellent idea! The convention center is going to be a disaster.

An aquarium would be an awesome addition to downtown Albany or Menands! If we are dreaming big do you think we could get a "Green" Aquarium that showcases clean energy to run the building??

I have often thought as a capital city Albany is lacking in tourist attracting features. I like the idea of a zoo, arboretum/ botanical garden, aquarium,or fine art museum . Really, we should indulge in all of these job creating attractions that could help bring revenue to our city! We do NOT need a convention center.

I like the idea of an aquarium, would go if they built it :)

Yes to the aquarium! That would be a step towards greatness for Albany.

I'm originally from Baltimore and grew up there. The Aquarium was always a field trip all kids looked forward to in school. I still go back as an adult, it's just amazing, especially the rain forest. I love the idea of the Wild Center and have been there a couple times as well, incorporating local wildlife into the Aquarium would also be an excellent idea. The problem, as I see it, with the Wild Center is that it's a difficult field trip destination, especially for any schools south of Albany, but I've done zero research to confirm that fact. I don't know if downtown Albany is the best location, but the discussion is a great start!

Oooooooh, love this idea. We'd go. Is there an aquarium nearer to us than Boston or Buffalo? Don't know how feasible it is would require a ton of maintenance and would have to be kept updated and clean to entice visitors. Can you imagine the utility bill? Convention centers are great for places like Florida & Atlanta, where businesses want to travel to in winter.

Yes. Especially if you put it on the waterfront - perhaps the superfund land at the top of Erie Blvd. in Sch'tdy? Reclaimed space, green energy. And tie it in with the biology departments at the universities in the area.

OTOH, I dont think it has to be an either/or with the convention center. Many families look to save costs and combine business and pleasure. A large scale attraction like an aquarium easily plays to the same audience heading past us to get to Six Flags.

And let's point out the obvious - post 9/11, a convention center sitting smack dab in the middle of Empire State Plaza is frustrating at best with the restrictions on unloading trucks, security of personnel and metal detectors. Nothing like a pat down to say, "Welcome to Albany, enjoy your stay!"

There's a reason why Saratoga's convention center does well - location, location.

One more vote in favor of the aquarium

Several years ago the City of Albany did a economic impact study of building a Fort Orange reenactment somewhere down where the proposed site of the convention center is. It was very detailed and an interesting read. It's no longer on their website, but was up there as recently as 2 years ago.

The study neglected one thing: Who would want to go to a reenactment location when there's a freakin' elevated highway right next door???

I fully support the idea of no convention center, and putting in a educational tourist attraction. An aquarium can't be cheap though. I like the idea of a Botanical garden. There is also a Butteryfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls, CA, and that is a really popular destination. Not saying it would be cheap, but probably better than an aquarium.

I would do pretty much anything to get otters to the Capital Region. If there were otters I would go every single weekend.

Seriously though, my charm alone doesn't seem to be enough to bring out of state friends and family to the capital aquarium would be a really neat addition to this city...and heck, if it made Albany a destination THEN we might want to consider a convention center....but we have to be a destination first. Duh.

that would be the coolest thing and i would want to work there. too bad it's just a pipe dream :/

If my choices are an aquarium or a convention center, I'm not sure how the aquarium is the cliche.

A quick google search makes it painfully clear that (1) there has been a huge boom in convention centers constructed in teh past 25 years, and (2) there has been a decline in the number of conventions being held.

It's a total boondoggle that will fester and rot. Albany is not a destination people holding conventions will want to go to. It doesn't have enough hotel space downtown, it doesn't have a tourist draw of new orleans, vegas, florida, new york city, LA, etc. It has some of hte highest airfare around.

Who in their right mind would come here?

that said, I don't think an aquarium is a good idea either, but its certainly a better idea than a convention center. People with kids from out of town can't believe that there's not a zoo or aquarium in the area.

Ahhhhh, I would LOVE to see an Albany Aquarium someday. I would almost definitely buy a membership-type-deal to one. I have always loved visiting aquariums. I've been to the major northeast ones many times, but it would be amazing to have one right in our backyard.

I don't know if this is any gauge of possible aquarium attendance, but the Capital Region has a pretty big aquarium-hobbiest population... I got back into it a year ago and I couldn't believe how packed Eddies (and Healthy Pet, Union, Davey Jones, etc) can get at times!

Who do we lobby for something like this? :D

An Albany Aquarium is a neat idea, but as a saltwater only venue seems awfully detached from the natural eco-systems of the area. I think it would be great if it focused on the flora and fauna of the area including the Hudson River estuary and the Adirondacks. It could even tie into the Adirondack Museums at Blue Mountain and Tupper Lakes.

Count me as a YES! I grew up on the ocean and fell in love with the Boston Aquarium after my family moved "inland". Now that I have a son, I would love to have him experience oceanic life more often than our semi-annual trips to the Cape.

A strong YES!

yes yes yes totally. its a far drive to other ones and having one here would be amazing. its the kind of place visitors can go but also locals can go again and again and see something new every time. plus - it's just a peaceful place to be. i always feel a sense of calm in aquariums.

Let's work a casino into the mix.

"The Gerald D. Jennings Gambatorium and Subaqueous Adventure Center"

I love aquaria and I'm not at all excited about a convention center. However, it would take quite some doing (and a lot of money!) to create a destination aquarium. You'd have to be bigger and better than either Boston or Mystic, and both of those have lots of other nearby attractions to help their draw.

And then there's the parking question. We don't have enough parking in downtown Albany as it is.

As a local teacher, I have felt the "want" for an aquarium for years. 100% yes on an aquarium!


Yes! I LOVE aquariums and would definitely buy a family memership if there is an aquarium in the Capital Region.

That would be amazing!!! I know many of my mom friends would agree.....we need something like that!

Yes, obviously. Who wants to go to a convention in Albany? There are better bigger cities very near here, so I can't imagine what group, and from where, would come here without an attraction like... hey, like an aquarium! Put it somewhere between Huck Finns and Exit 6, and build Menands into a walkable village. That Save-A-Lot plaza is ripe for revitalization.

Yes! I love the Boston aquarium, even though I've been there 100 times.. I'd definitely go to a local one.

and I agree with Paul, the local aquarium-hobbyist population seems sizeable (based on the fact that there's half a dozen locally-owned stores I can think of... in addition to the traditional PetCo and Walmart offerings).. it'd be a perfect match.

As someone who goes to 4-6 various sized conventions each year, I have no idea who thinks an Albany convention center is a good idea. It's not. I can't think of a single meeting that would want to come here, and I say that as someone who likes living here. It's just not the kind of place you go for a meeting, and I don't see that changing. An aquarium, on the other hand, would be amazing!

@Ike: we don't agree on much, but your comment is spot on. conventions are on the steep slide. do we have a crap convention space? yep. do we need to replace it with a Taj manslaughter? I don't think so.

that said the ate where center is slated to be built needs a lot of love.

I know baseball stadiums are a disaster and a waste of money, but its a totally unrealistic pipe dream of mine to be a season ticket holder for a close by baseball team. I'm thinking Camden yards, only a lot tonier (and more multi purposed) like I said, totally irrational but worth the daydream

An aquarium, a zoo, any place that I could bring my in-laws when they are here visiting so we don't have to sit around and look at each other for 3 days straight.

Not only would this be a great year-round public gathering space but It'd help make Albany a destination once again. Plus, who knows, it could just solve the "Central Storage" puzzle

An aquarium could be just the thing to put that montrosity to use

We aren't going to do well as a city (or region) trying to be like other cities. We have to capitalize on our unique assets. An aquarium could be cool, but it seems a little odd that it would focus on sea life. I agree with the poster that it should feature local ecosystems, or at least have a strong local part. The Children's Museum of Science and Technology in Troy has a nice exhibit on the Hudson from it's northern most source on Mt Marcy all the way to New York Harbor. An aquarium might explore that on a larger scale. And what about river otters that are native to NY instead of sea otters? The problem? For the most part, these species aren't as pretty as their saltwater counterparts. We also already have a fantastic venue that highlights natural history (a globally rare ecosystem!)- the Albany Pine Bush. Perhaps there should be shuttles from downtown that bring visitors there.

History and Architecture are also a fantastic local asset. Why aren't there more trails and walks offered that highlight our rich history? One could partner with the local hotels, museums, and historical societies. And the churches, hello - We've got some fabulous churches (some with Tiffany windows!) that would draw tourists in other cities. We'd need tour guides who could bring people to these places - people clearly aren't finding them on their own.

Sounds like a business opportunity to me.


@Jason - Well, sir, there's nothing on earth, like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car Monorail!

What about us brain-dead slobs? You'll all be given cushy jobs!

I agree with Karen. I think an aquarium is on the right track but the region might be better served by an attraction that is unique to our area.

The aquatic history of the Hudson could surely form the basis of a unique aquarium. Sturgeon were commonly referred to in the 19th century as 'Albany beef'. Tying together the aquatic life of the Hudson with Adirondack ecosystems and linkages with the Pine Bush Preserve could set a local facility apart. If there were a way to tie the whole experience together with tours/education of Albany's historic building stock, too, that would be a wonderful thing.
As for Albany being a destination for conventions though, there is going to be a major convention of mystery-writing fans in Albany next year. There are valid reasons to come here. We need to start recognizing that ourselves.

You can't make money from trails and walks and people aren't traveling to see Tiffany windows.

I fully support this or really anything else that might cater to something other than Albany's 11-2 crowd (AM or PM).

I was walking on Pearl the other day and saw two tourists walking around at 3:45 PM. All I could think was "Damn, these people are screwed." An aquarium or something else that could keep visitors around could be a big boost for Albany. The fact that half of downtown shuts down in the afternoon isn't most welcoming of out of towners.

If Albany had an aquarium, I wouldn't be as excited to go to boston to their aquarium... and I wouldn't be spending money on a hotel in boston... and I wouldn't go shopping in quincy market... boston would really lose out on what I contribute at least yearly to their struggling economy. And, do we really want to see Albany become a tourist destination? What would Albany do if people from out of town came to Albany to spend money? Albany would start to revitalize... Albany might even become a nice city to be in...

My family loves otters almost as much as Valerae, so yes, yes, yes to an aquarium. There are fresh water otters and salt water otters so I could care less if it is an ocean-y aquarium or a river-y one. Either would be sweet. I know the otters at the Buffalo Zoo are pretty popular.

Oh and the convention center- no, please. The last thing we need is more empty space in Albany.

I think an aquarium would be cool. I've always been disappointed that there wasn't one close by.

yes yes a thousand times yes. Now how can we put some legs on this pup....err fins on this fish?

I'm not sure what individuals are behind this "proposal" or what other steps are being taken to promote it, but I'd kind of like to know how many and what types of animals would the proposed aquarium extract from their ocean homes? I like the idea of an educational attraction in downtown Albany... But, we are on the HUDSON RIVER. That is a big part of what makes Albany special (as a few posters above have mentioned). How about conserving the resources we have and building them into something bigger and better? Not interesting enough? I would imagine that with all the science and research in the area, we could come up with a better tourism scheme than stealing and exploiting animals from far off oceans.

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