Marineland is building the world's largest aquarium complex, a 60- acre tourist attraction that will include four domed structures housing such marine life as sharks, dolphins and stingrays.
Visitors will be able to watch the creatures from above the water and through viewing panels in an underwater tunnel.
Construction of the first phase of the complex -- an exhibit that will feature whale sharks, the world's largest fish -- will begin this month and be completed in two years, Marineland owner John Holer said Thursday.
"I've been working on the project for the past two years," said Holer, who founded Marineland in 1961. "It's part of our continuing expansion, and we have plenty of acres remaining in the park for much more."
Less than half of Marineland's 1,000 acres has been developed into tourist attractions, he said.
The marine and amusement park on Stanley Avenue, in the city's south end, closes for the winter on Oct. 8, and will reopen in May. Construction of the aquarium will continue through the winter.
The new aquarium complex will include:
*Terrors of the Sea, housing a variety of sharks and stingrays.
*Friends of the Sea, the centerpiece and largest of the four domed aquariums, an interactive dolphin exhibit.
*Discovery Reef, containing an ocean reef filled with fish of the Caribbean.
*Rainforest Lagoon, featuring freshwater fish from around the world.
The new complex is part of a $144 million (U.S.) development project that includes the already completed Friendship Cove and Arctic Cove; two whale habitats housing belugas and killer whales; and four major amusement rides, including the latest addition, the Sky Screamer, the world's highest tower ride.
A new ride called the Topple Tower, an 80-foot-high thrill ride, will open next spring.
The construction program also includes Safari Park, a 3-mile wilderness adventure ride on boats and trains, scheduled to open in 2008. Marineland also has black bears, deer and buffalo, and a tent and trailer park for visitors.
With the aquarium complex, Marineland will accomplish something that was ballyhooed for seven years on the American side of the Niagara River. The excavation work was done for a $40 million underground aquarium near the Rainbow Bridge, but the so-called AquaFalls remained a huge hole in the ground until lack of financing finally scuttled the entire project two years ago.