Aquarium of Niagara Announces Opening of ‘M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay’

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Empire State Development and M&T Bank Provide Funding to Support New Shark and Stingray Interactive Habitat 

 

By: Staff Reporter

A new interactive habitat featuring sharks and sting rays is now open at the Aquarium of Niagara. Backed with funding from Empire State Development, M&T Bank, Niagara County and others, the “M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay” exhibit invites guests to a safe, COVID-19 friendly hands-on experience with marine life. It marks the third major project at the aquarium in three years, including Penguin Coast in 2018 and Aliens of the Sea in 2019. These projects have a combined value of $6.5 million dollars and demonstrate the aquarium’s commitment to enhancing the visitor experience through dynamic and engaging attractions.

“As someone who brought my children here since they were little, it is incredible to witness their excitement about the beauty of nature while exploring the aquatic life that is featured at the Aquarium of Niagara,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “What is even more impressive is the transformation I’ve been able to witness not only in Niagara Falls, but at the Aquarium, welcoming the Humboldt penguin exhibit, jellyfish exhibit and now the Shark and Ray Bay. While we continue to have the world’s most famous attraction in Niagara Falls, New York will continue to invest in the surrounding community so that places like the Aquarium can grow and capitalize on the post-pandemic future.”

Support of the $1.9 million project enhances the vitality of the Niagara region by helping to make the aquarium a notable destination for visitors, school children and local families. Funding for “M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay” was provided by the WNY Regional Economic Development Council (WNYREDC), presenting sponsor M&T Bank, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, John R. Oishei Foundation, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, City of Niagara Falls and Niagara Aquarium Foundation Board of Trustees.

 

 

Jim Jarosz, M&T Bank Group Vice President for Retail Banking in Western New York and Aquarium of Niagara Board Member said, “The opening of M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay will advance the Aquarium of Niagara’s long-term strategy to be an inclusive destination that inspires visitors and contributes to the revitalization of Niagara Falls. Importantly, this interactive exhibit has the potential to ignite the curiosity of a new generation of conservation-minded individuals who are committed to preserving the health of our aquatic environments. Our team at M&T Bank was proud to team up with Empire State Development and all our local partners to support this project and help strengthen our community.”

The interactive touch pool exhibit, which is handicap accessible, is prominently featured on the first floor of the aquarium and is included with general admission. Guests are greeted by a shallow tropical pool where they can experience the unique textures and movements of sharks, stingrays, and other marine invertebrates. The exhibit also includes art and graphics highlighting each species’ role in a healthy ocean ecosystem and the importance of conserving essential coastal habitats such as mangroves and lagoons.

Aquarium of Niagara Executive Director Gary Siddall said, “As an organization, we are most successful when we inspire our visitors to make a difference for aquatic life, and there is no better method for forging that connection than an interactive experience with our animals. After being closed for more than a hundred days as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are relieved and enthusiastic to introduce this one-of-a kind project to the community.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the aquarium has implemented special policies and procedures to ensure the safety of guests who interact with the new exhibit. To maintain appropriate social distancing, no more than 15 people will be at the touch pool at any given time. Visitors are asked to remain with their parties and experience the touch pool at a safe social distance from other groups. Surfaces around the exhibit will sanitized regularly, and guests are asked to wash their hands both before and after interacting with the exhibit. Furthermore, research has shown that the coronavirus cannot survive in a marine environment like the one found in “M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay.”

The sharks, sting rays, and marine invertebrates living in “M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay” join the aquarium’s diverse range of more than 120 species, which includes penguins, marine mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The aquarium annually welcomes more than 305,000 visitors, which is anticipated to increase with the addition of the new exhibit.

 

 

New York State Senator Robert Ortt said, “The Aquarium of Niagara has demonstrated a commitment to education and evolvement with continued investment into innovative and interactive exhibits for visitors of the aquarium. Over the last three years, we have seen the construction of three new attractions that allow for an exciting experience for both new and returning guests alike. The new Shark & Ray Bay will not only serve as a brand new attraction for tourists from around the world who are visiting Niagara Falls, but it will be a fantastic educational resource for residents, both young and old. I am proud to have helped make this new attraction a possibility, and I applaud the Aquarium of Niagara for its continued excellence.”

New York State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello said, “Congratulations to Gary Siddall, the entire staff of the Niagara Falls Aquarium, M&T Bank, Empire State Development and all partners for assisting to make the Aquarium a Top Tier attraction in Niagara Falls. This progress will assist to extend the visitor stay. I am pleased to be a part of this progress.”

City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino said, “Our city is proud to offer this great attraction to not only our visitors, but our residents. The addition of Shark and Ray Bay only solidifies the Aquarium’s commitment to excellence and continued improvements. We’re excited for this new interactive exhibit and look forward to hearing about its success.”

Robert D. Gioia, President of the John R. Oishei Foundation said, “The opening of the M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay is an exciting milestone for the Aquarium of Niagara as it continues to add high-quality exhibits and to improve its offerings. The Aquarium is an important regional asset for education and conservation and adds significantly to the tourism economy in Niagara Falls. We are proud to support this local treasure.”

John Percy, President & CEO of Destination Niagara Falls USA said, “We are thrilled with the continued effort being put forth by the Aquarium of Niagara to enhance and extend their visitor experience.  The new Shark and Ray Bay exhibit will join the opening of Aliens of the Sea and Penguin Coast in giving visitors and residents year-round access to fun, interactive and modern attractions.  Congratulations to the Aquarium of Niagara on this extremely exciting transformation.”

Due to the anticipated heightened interest surrounding any new exhibit, visitors are strongly encouraged to purchase general admission tickets online. For more about the Aquarium of Niagara, visit: http://www.aquariumofniagara.org.

 


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