HARRISON COUNTY — Despite some interest in Clark and Floyd counties, a Louisville businessman is eyeing Harrison County as the future site of a “world class” aquarium that once was planned for Kentucky.
Ed Dana, the CEO and president of Sleep Center of Kentuckiana, has been shopping around his plans for a 200,000-plus square foot aquarium, outdoor amusement park, water park and dinosaur museum since February of this year — starting with the Louisville Metro Council.
Those plans appear to be dead for now. The Courier Journal reported that officials decided that the project would not be possible at Dana’s preferred location along River Road. Dana is also giving a presentation at a public Harrison County Commissioners meeting at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 5, when he will detail his aquarium plans, said Commissioner Jim Klinstiver.
Dana told the News and Tribune that he talked to “quite a few places around Louisville” about his aquarium, but felt that Harrison County was the best fit. In a previous interview, he said he also was considering Indianapolis as a location for the aquarium.
Both New Albany and Jeffersonville’s mayors said they were never approached by Dana about the aquarium, but that they are always interested in growth opportunities for their cities. Clarksville Town Manager Kevin Baity said that there had been some internal discussion about potential locations for the aquarium, but that the town’s redevelopment director had not had any luck with contacting Dana. The size of the facility also would have made finding a location for the aquarium in Clarksville difficult, Baity said.
Klinstiver said that he met Dana through a mutual friend, and that the businessman is focused on Harrison County because the three commissioners there verbally support him. Klinstiver said that he would like to “re-establish” Harrison County’s river towns with the aquarium. The county has 45 miles of Ohio River frontage, Klinstiver said, and Dana has mentioned that he would like the aquarium to rest along the riverfront. Klinstiver also expressed an interest in well-paying jobs that the aquarium might bring. On the website for Dana’s project, indianafunworld.com, he says that the project is expected to bring over 300 “good paying jobs” to the area in which it's located.
Dana mentioned tax credits in his interview with the News and Tribune when talking about why he's interested in Harrison County, but Klinstiver said that no financial promise to Dana has been made yet.
In a previous interview with the News and Tribune, Dana said that the aquarium would be an $80-million project. On his website, he says that the attractions at the aquarium will exist with the help of “investments, sponsorships, visitation and other income.” The website contains pages for both sponsors and investors. Investors are needed to obtain the property for the aquarium, the website says. They’re being asked to invest at least $50,000 in exchange for 40 percent ownership interest in the company.
Acquiring land, however, is a step to be taken in the future for Dana. His Sept. 5 presentation in Harrison County is just that. Klinstiver said that Dana would have to go before the county plan commission and, eventually, the commissioners to receive actual approval for his plans.
Plans for the aquarium on Dana’s website are split into four attractions: the aquarium, called Indiana Journey into the Oceans, Indiana Fun Park, Sharks Bay Water Park and the Living Dinosaurs Museum & Park.
The aquarium is pitched as showcasing marine, freshwater, desert, rainforests and wetlands ecosystems. Fourteen possible exhibits are listed including deep oceans and what’s beneath, Kentucky waters and beyond, national marine life exhibit and polar world exhibit. 5-D Experience Theaters are also mentioned, as well as educational programs for curious visitors ranging from pre-k to college-aged.
Indiana Fun Park is outlined as including 20 to 30 different rides for kids and adults, large playground equipment and tree houses connected with wooden, netted bridges. The water park is said to include floating entertainment, as well as waterslides and swimming pools. Finally, the dinosaur museum is described as being two floors with a realistic depiction of the dinosaurs' world on one and a “huge” collection of bone displays on the other. A nearby outdoor park might contain animations, interactive play and activities.