Sea to Believe’ at new aquarium at Ridgmar Mall
SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium
SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium is bringing nautical adventures and education to Fort Worth with its first Texas location.
The 28,000-square-foot aquarium, located inside Ridgmar Mall, has eight rooms that let visitors explore animals from various locations. Each room holds at least one interactive exhibit meant to get kids and adults involved with the animals.
“We only have one Earth and we have to help kids understand we need to take care of it the best we can, and the easiest way to do that is to reach them through interactivity,” General Manager Cody Wood said.
“A lot of other locations you go to, the first thing parents tell their kids is ‘don’t touch things, keep your hands in your pockets,’ but here at SeaQuest we actually discourage that,” Wood said. “We tell our kids to touch everything and ask all those questions — touch any animal, hold an animal.”
On recent visit, people of all ages were touching little fish in the California Coast room, covered in birds at the aviary of the Mayan Jungle room and feeding stingrays in the Caribbean Cove room. And for $39.95 for non-members of the aquarium, visitors can snorkel with the stingrays and sharks for 45 minutes in a 27,000-gallon tank kept at 72 degrees.
SeaQuest offers GoPro cameras for rent and will create a video for visitors. The price of the snorkel experience includes a 1-day admission to the aquarium and a wetsuit is provided.
Wood said it is safe to swim with the stingrays in the snorkeling tank because their barbs are trimmed monthly and checked by SeaQuest staff every morning.
“The barb is made out of a similar material to your fingernail,” Wood said.
Construction on the aquarium began in May with the goal of revitalizing the mall from a retail location to a family getaway destination. Seven former retail locations were combined to create the space. Hill Design Group did all construction work and Huntsman Design Group handled the design and theming.
Wood says SeaQuest locations are purposely built in low-traffic malls. For example, the Las Vegas SeaQuest attracted an indoor mini-golf course and a luxury movie theater. SeaQuest Fort Worth hopes to have the same impact on Ridgmar Mall.
“One big business model for SeaQuest Interactive Aquariums is going into malls that aren’t necessarily the ones with Apple stores and Tiffanys and Rolexs because we like to go in and we try to help revitalize those areas a little bit,” Wood said. “So that was our goal here. Ridgmar is not a bad mall by any means. [It] just had a couple vacant locations and we’re helping them change that. I know there’s a lot of plans to revitalize this whole area.”
Ridgmar Mall has lost several key retailers in the past few years, with Neiman Marcus moving to the new Shops at Clearfork development and Macy’s closing its location. The mall’s owner, GK Development Inc., acquired the property in 2016 and has said it plans to update the mall and earlier pointed to the aquarium as a key component to revitalization.
SeaQuest got its first group of animals in September and will have all of the animals in place by the official grand opening on Nov. 11. A media and member preview was held Nov. 1.
About 80 percent of the animals come to the aquarium through rescue or donation from people who either didn’t realize how long their bird would live or how large their snake would get.
“The great thing is even if we can’t add them to our collection, everyone that works here is a big animal lover and we’ll actually send them home with a team member to take care of them,” Wood said.
SeaQuest houses more than fish. It includes several reptile exhibits and two aviaries. The two most notable non-aquatic animals at SeaQuest Fort Worth are a capybara and a tortoise named Stormin’ Norman.
The aquarium offers annual memberships, one-day admissions and rates for field trips.
Memberships start at $59.95 and include preview events and discounts at the gift shop and for the snorkeling experience.
Field trips can be booked beginning Dec. 1 for private parties and events, Boy and Girl Scout groups and an overnight Sleeping with the Sharks lock-in event.
One-day admission for SeaQuest is: $14.95 for ages 12-54; $12.95 for seniors, military and first responders; $9.95 for children 2-11; free for children under 2.
SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium has four more undisclosed locations in the works in collaboration with the same construction and design groups.
The Fort Worth venue is currently the largest SeaQuest and has 50 full- and part-time employees and volunteers. It will begin an internship program Dec. 1 for high school seniors and college students interested in animal husbandry or business.