GRAPEVINE, TX-”Believe it or not,” a destination aquarium will be built in Grapevine. Unlike one aquarium plan looking for investment capital, the newest proposal is a 52-acre joint venture project between GreyHawk Realty Capital and Ripley Entertainment Inc.

The Orlando, FL-headquartered Ripley and Dallas-based GreyHawk are still working out the fine points to the plan, but have come to terms for building the entertainment giant’s third aquarium in the US. If the product mirrors the Gatlinburg, TN and Myrtle Beach, SC projects, it will be an 87,000-sf facility with a $40 million-plus price tag.

Michelle A. Corson, GreyHawk principal, tells that “it’s pretty much a go” whether or not the city ponies up incentives like those pledged to Erik Pedersen and his US Aquarium Team Inc. for part of the cost to build a $30-million aquarium beside its top tourist attraction, the 1.5-million-sf Grapevine Mills Mall. Greyhawk’s land, with frontage along Texas 26, is just a stone’s throw away on terrain with a seven-acre lake and views of the region’s newest resort and conference center, the Gaylord Texan, and nestled between the Cowboys Golf Club and DFW Lakes Hilton.

Corson says Ripley looked at GreyHawk’s land five years ago, but decided it wasn’t the right time to build. About a year ago, Corson and partner, Harry C. Sherman III, paid a return visit to Ripley’s executive team to pick up talks as a groundswell built for an aquarium in Grapevine.

GreyHawk’s closing hook was that the land couldn’t be bought. “It’s $20 per sf dirt,” Corson says of a proposition presented to Ripley as a partnership. GreyHawk bought the acreage five years ago and has turned down many buyers, including hoteliers, hoping to mine the development potential of the triangular-shaped tract.

The facility’s size and construction schedule have yet to be determined. Corson says the goal is to get construction going as soon as possible since it takes 18 months to two years for completion. Ripley’s finished aquarium products include a 330-ft underwater glide path in a 750,000-gallon tank. Other exhibits include a 51,000-gallon Pacific coral reef while the standard interactive package includes a marine science education center, shark lagoon and rain forest.

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