The Blue Zoo aquarium in the Mall of Louisiana has an April 1 opening date.
Wes Haws, the founder and chief executive officer of Blue Zoo, which currently has locations at shopping malls in Oklahoma City and Spokane, Washington, said between 40 to 60 people will work at the Baton Rouge aquarium. It will be located on the first floor of the mall, near Dillard’s, in a 16,000-square-foot space that had been occupied by Hollister Co., Gameware and Nawlins Sports.
Mall goers might soon be surprised to see an aquarium open where a Hollister and other stores previously stood in the Mall of Louisiana.
Haws said he selected Baton Rouge because it had a “good performing mall”, with “good families” and “a lack of family entertainment.” And even though the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is less than 90 miles away, he’s not worried about competition from the New Orleans attraction. “That’s something you go on during a once-a-year trip,” he said. “This is something that’s close by.”
Plans are to invest $4 million to $5 million on the Baton Rouge location. There will be 38 exhibits, with animals such as sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, seahorses and toucans. Guests at Blue Zoo will have an opportunity to touch a stingray and pick up a starfish, along with interacting with birds.
Guests will be able to buy a day pass to Blue Zoo for about $16 for adults and $13 for children. This will allow them to visit the aquarium, eat lunch, shop, then duck back in to look at the exhibits before heading home. One-year family passes, which allow for unlimited visits, will also be offered for $199.
Blue Zoo is part of a new wave of “experience-based businesses” coming to malls, Haws said. “People in our generation and younger aren’t interested in stuff, they want experiences they can show on social media,” he said.
The first Blue Zoo opened in Washington in August 2019, while the Oklahoma City location followed in July. Haws said he’s not concerned about opening another location during a pandemic.
“We haven’t had any trouble,” he said, noting that Blue Zoo was one of only 30% of the businesses that continued to pay its rent in Spokane and Oklahoma City during the pandemic. Plus, he noted the Mall of Louisiana was far busier than either of the properties Blue Zoo is currently in.
To follow the progress of Blue Zoo, visit the Facebook page.