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Merlin Entertainments to Open Sea Life Center Aquarium at Crown Center, Kansas City

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Related: Merlin Entertainments appoints marketing Chief for Blackpool / Rocking around the World   

Global visitor attraction operator, Merlin Entertainments (Merlin), has announced that it has reached agreement with Crown Center Redevelopment Corp., a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc., to develop plans for a $15 million SEA LIFE aquarium attraction to open in Kansas City during Spring 2012. This new attraction will be located on the first floor of Halls department store at Crown Center. The deal is signed and unconditional, and will not receive any tax incentives.  

“North America is a very important growth market for Merlin, and over recent months we have developed an excellent working relationship with the Crown Center team, as well as other specialist advisory firms such as Colliers International, Kansas City.  This was a key factor in our decision, and our commitment to build a SEA LIFE Center demonstrates our belief that the Kansas City metropolitan area, and particularly Crown Center, is a perfect location for a quality family-based leisure facility.  We are therefore delighted to be able to move our plans forward, and the lease is now signed, ” said Glenn Earlam, Managing Director of Merlin Entertainments’ Midway Attractions group. 

SEA LIFE is the world’s biggest aquarium brand with more than 8 million visitors a year and 30 superb attractions in Europe, USA and Asia Pacific.   This will be Merlin’s fifth SEA LIFE Center attraction to open in the USA, and SEA LIFE at Crown Center will highlight all of the qualities which have gained the brand the support and endorsement of marine experts worldwide.  Initial plans call for a two-story aquarium housing more than 30 spectacular displays of diverse marine life for visitors to enjoy-everything from shrimp and starfish to seahorses, sharks and rays.

In addition, a stunning centerpiece will be a huge tropical ocean tank with a walk-through underwater tunnel.  Finally, in keeping with other SEA LIFE attractions, there will also be a unique element reflecting the Kansas City locale, and SEA LIFE Kansas City will take visitors on an enthralling 2-3 journey from the fresh waters of the Missouri River, into the mighty Mississippi River then out into the warm blue coral strewn waters of the Caribbean Sea, ending in the deep dark abyss of the Atlantic Ocean. 

SEA LIFE at Crown Center will garner immediate success as part of the family oriented shopping and leisure activities in Kansas City. Crown Center is already acknowledged as being one of the city’s most important and exciting locations. The 80-acre complex successfully combines quality big name retail stores, with two superb hotels, office space, a residential community, some of the best and most exciting dining in the city, as well as other high quality family entertainment venues like SEA LIFE. 

“The SEA LIFE aquarium will be the perfect complement to all of the family oriented attractions at Crown Center; and it will greatly enhance the already celebrated shopping and entertainment experience.  We look forward to our partnership with Merlin Entertainments and are confident that families will revel in the deep sea wonders that the aquarium will bring, “said Bill Lucas, President, Crown Center Redevelopment.

The SEA LIFE focus is on quality of experience rather than scale, taking visitors on a seamless journey under the sea which entertains, inspires and teaches both young and old.  The attractions offer everything from viewing windows giving a glimpse into the ocean itself; to enlightening talks, feeding demonstrations, as well as involvement in the brand’s global  environmental and conservation marine campaigning. As with its other “midway” attractions, Merlin calls the SEA LIFE experience “fun learning”.

Merlin has already proven the success of the SEA LIFE concept in the USA at LEGOLAND, California; the Mall of America in Minneapolis, MN; and the recently opened SEA LIFE Center at Arizona Mills in Tempe, AZ.  These developments underline consumer demand for the kind of quality family leisure experience that SEA LIFE offers. 

Merlin currently has nine other attractions in the USA including the LEGOLAND California theme park with its exciting new Water Park opened last year – and voted the best children’s park for the last seven years by Amusement Today; Madame Tussauds attractions in New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas and Hollywood; a LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Chicago; and SEA LIFE aquariums in Phoenix, Arizona; the Mall of America in Minneapolis; and alongside LEGOLAND California.  

Four more Merlin attractions are also already in development for the USA.  Scheduled to open in 2011 – a SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Dallas/ Fort Worth; and LEGOLAND Florida – a major new theme park opening in Winterhaven, Florida next Autumn – the second in the USA and fifth in the world.  A third US LEGOLAND Discovery Centre will also open in Spring 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Plans and designs are already being drawn up for the Crown Center site and construction will begin in May 2011, with the attraction due to open in Spring 2012.

SEA LIFE will occupy the first floor of Halls department store, as well as a portion of the second floor. To accommodate the new attraction, Halls’ men’s department will relocate to space on the third level of the Crown Center Shops. The Hallmark Cards product department within Halls will be consolidated into the Hallmark store at Crown Center, while the home decor and kitchenware departments will be relocated on Halls’ second level. Halls’ third floor departments (women’s apparel, shoes and accessories) will remain unchanged. 

MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS GROUP is the leading name in location based, family entertainment, and has seen the most successful and dynamic growth of any company in the sector over the last five years.   Europe’s No 1 and the world’s second largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin has 64 attractions, 6 hotels and two holiday villages in 14 countries, across 3 continents.   The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its 40 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and 15000 employees.

Merlin Entertainments’ attractions include – SEA LIFE – the world’s biggest aquarium brand, Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, The London Eye, Dungeons, Gardaland, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers, Alton Towers Resort, Warwick Castle, THORPE PARK, Chessington World of Adventures, Heide Park and Earth Explorer.  All brands which are distinctive, challenging and innovative – and which have great potential for growth in the future. Visit www.merlinentertainments.biz for more information.

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