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DENVER-Colorado’s Ocean Journey, a non-profit aquarium, is under water financially. COJ, which in 1997 was funded through $35 million in sponsorships from a Who’s Who of Denver’s business people and corporations, $7-million loan insured from HUD through the city, and $57.4 million in junk bond financing, shocked the business community when officials announced it will default on the bonds.

They would amount to $120 million over the next 25 years.

COJ hopes to refinance the bonds which carry an interest rate of 8.3%, in order to cut its $400,000 monthly bond payments.

COJ also plans to stop making payments on the city loan, which has dropped to $6.1 million from $7 million.

The aquarium is considering giving the city some valuable land it owns adjacent to the aquarium in the Central Platte Valley in lieu of paying off the loan. The city is considering the proposal. COJ also is considering selling the land to a developer, which would raise needed cash. A development next to COJ would make it more of a destination attraction for visitors.

The aquarium also is asking for tax support from the city’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. The aquarium is one of the most popular attractions in Denver, drawing about 1 million visitors a year. But the attendance has not been enough to cover its hefty interest payments.

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