Construction of Sea Life Michigan — a 35,000-square-foot aquarium that will soon be home to more than 5,000 creatures including sharks, stingrays, and sea horses — is under way at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills, and is expected to open in spring 2015.
The aquarium, which will include a tropical ocean tank with a walk-through underwater tunnel, is planned as a major draw not only for the outlet mall shoppers, but for southeastern Michigan residents in general, says Steve Berlow, general manager of Great Lakes Crossing Outlet.
If you drew a circle (around their facility), their reach is three hours out, or in some cases, 350 miles out,” Berlow says. “Based on the type of draw they have at their other venues around the United States, they’re going to reach into Canada, northern Ohio, all the way over into Grand Rapids, and going up I-75 (to) Bay City and Saginaw.”
Currently, Berlow says about 21 percent of the mall’s shoppers travel 50 miles or more, and roughly half of those customers are international, with 70 percent being Canadian.
We’re more than a super regional center,” Berlow says. “We have 185 stores, restaurants, and entertainment (options). And I think that’s really where this industry is leading. It’s not just about shopping, it’s a full experience.”
Sea Life Michigan will be operated by United Kingdom–based Merlin Entertainments, the same company behind Legoland Parks, the London Eye, and Madame Tussauds.
The Auburn Hills site — which will host an invite-only “sandbreaking” next week — will be located outside of Entry 7, near the Rainforest Café. Once the attraction opens, visitors will enter via an interior entrance in the mall.
This will be the seventh U.S. location for the Sea Life brand, which operates aquariums in Phoenix, Kansas City, Mo.; Dallas/Fort Worth; Minneapolis; Orlando; and Charlotte-Concord, N.C. The company also operates numerous facilities throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain.
Also new to Great Lakes Crossing Outlets are outdoor retailer Mountain Warehouse; Quicksilver clothing; Zumiez action sports apparel; and Hezberg Diamond Outlets. National sunglasses operator Solstice is set to open in early November.