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March 8th, 2011A Sea Change At Mall Of America

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by Megan Nicolai
StarTribune.com

Underwater Adventures, the aquarium anchoring the east side of the Mall of America, is getting yet another new name and another new face-lift.

Sea Life Minnesota will open March 11 after more than two years of work and $5 million in renovations.

It is the latest incarnation for the aquarium that opened in the mall in 1996 and filed for bankruptcy a few years later. Among the latest renovations is the state’s only Giant Pacific octopus, a stingray tank and an Atlantis theme. Its already popular Shark Cove glass tunnel has been rechristened as the ocean temple of Poseidon, and includes a half-ton statue of the Greek god of the sea.

New owner Merlin Entertainments Group bought the 1.2 million-gallon aquarium in December 2008 for an undisclosed sum, and it has been renovating ever since. Two years ago it added a $250,000 sea horse tank, and a $1.5 million jellyfish exhibit the next year. These two exhibits marked the first major additions to the aquarium since 2000.

“The experience is much more immersive now,” said Craig Atkins, general manager of the aquarium. “The theme wasn’t as cool before.”

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