Another shopping mall in the Twin Cities is going underwater to attract customers.
SeaQuest Holdings LLC, a fast-growing developer of aquariums and other animal exhibits, will open an aquarium at Rosedale Center in Roseville next spring.
Construction has already started on the two-level, 23,000-square foot attraction in the former Ruby Tuesday restaurant space near J.C. Penney. The aquarium will be on the first level with reptiles and birds on the second floor. It will employ about 75 people and bring Rosedale into competition with the Mall of America’s aquarium, called Sea Life Minnesota.
Both attractions allow customers to feed some animals and even snorkel with fish. SeaQuest CEO Vince Covino said its aquariums have more such activities.
“Everything is designed to be interactive — touching, feeding and feeling,” Covino said. “It’s a beyond the glass experience.”
The Rosedale attraction will allow people to see sharks and caimans, get wet among stingrays, snorkel with tropical fish and feed birds and reptiles.
Boise, Idaho-based SeaQuest has aquariums at seven other malls in six states. In other malls, a daylong pass at a SeaQuest aquarium costs about $10 for children under 12, $13 for people over 55 and $15 for people ages 12 to 55. The company announced a 50-percent discount for early ticket sales and event bookings at the Rosedale location through the end of the year.
SeaQuest has drawn scrutiny from some animal-rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is critical of SeaQuest’s practice of allowing people to touch fish and other aquatic animals.
Asked about such criticism, Covino said, “SeaQuest creates a happy and healthy experience for guests and the animals.”
Like many malls, Rosedale has been adding more entertainment and dining options to keep shoppers and visitors longer. It added an Extreme Sandbox attraction last year with big construction equipment simulations. Its Revolution Hall food market, a modernized food court, opened last month.
The mall, one of the busiest in the Twin Cities, completed an extensive remodeling earlier this year, including an addition that brought the first Von Maur department store to the east metro two months ago.
Rosedale took a hit, however, when Bon-Ton closed all of its stores nationwide, including a Herberger’s store at the center this summer.
Mall of America’s aquarium has endured choppy waters of its own since opening in 1996. The company that initially ran the space on the mall’s east side, called Underwater World, filed bankruptcy little more than a year after opening. It was sold and renamed Underwater Adventures. In 2008, the business was sold again and renamed Sea Life.