It's been a controversial conversation amongst everyone since it's plan was announced by Onondaga County Executive, Ryan McMahon -- and now, has officially been voted in favor of by county legislators.

It was decided Tuesday that a near $85 million aquarium will built at the Inner Harbor in Syracuse. The past ten months have been filled with conversation of logistics, politics and more surrounding the project.

According to Syracuse.com, Legislators cast their votes after nearly two hours of emotional comments and debate.

At least eight community members who opposed the project lambasted lawmakers before the vote, accusing them of supporting a costly project that ignores the needs of poor local residents. One resident spoke in favor of the project, saying it would increase tourism.

McMahon has previously said the project would increase tourism and create an economic stimulus for the county.

“It will be a catalyst for development moving forward," said McMahon when introducing the idea back in October of 2021. "We’re going to transform this neighborhood and continue the momentum that we’ve had with the cleanup of Onondaga Lake."

The aquarium is expected to be 80,000 square feet with the potential for a 600,000-gallon tank. Citing a feasibility study prepared last year, McMahon estimated the aquarium will draw close to 500,000 visitors a year and generate $50 million in economic activity annually. It will generate about $796,000 a year in new sales and hotel taxes for the county, the study said. McMahon said that income would help the county sustain its programs, including those serving the poor.

As for the aquarium and what it would offer, it was mentioned previously, pre-vote, that ticket prices would be $21.95 for adults with discounts for students, seniors, children, military, and others. With all the changes in the economy and what it will look like by the time the aquarium has been built, there is no official price. It also has the potential to staff 80 full-time, 44 part-time, and 20 seasonal employees.

The closest aquarium to Central New York would be the VIA Aquarium in Schenectady. That's been the go-to spot for anyone looking to get that aquatic experience, but that will change if this new aquarium in Syracuse opens.

According to Syracuse.com, county officials are now preparing a request for proposals to design the facility. The design process could take up to 10 months. County officials hope to begin construction next year and open the facility in 2024. Construction will take about 18 months.

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