Blue Zoo, which operates aquariums in shopping malls across the U.S., will open a location in the Mall of Louisiana in the spring.
The aquarium will take up a 16,000-square-foot space on the first floor of the mall, near Dillard’s, that had been occupied by Hollister Co., Gameware and Nawlins Sports, said Gene Satern, senior general manager for the shopping center. Blue Zoo will open in April or May, he said.
Along with the Main Event family entertainment center that opened up in August 2019, Blue Zoo is an attraction that will bring potential shoppers to the mall at a time when traditional retailers are struggling with competition from online outlets and the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are always looking at ways to drive traffic and to enhance our retail partners. Certainly looking at new concepts like Blue Zoo will always be something we are interested in," Satern said in an email. "We continue to look for new fresh retailers that will take the mall experience to the next level."
Mall goers might soon be surprised to see an aquarium open where a Hollister and other stores previously stood in the Mall of Louisiana.
Blue Zoo currently operates similar sized aquariums at shopping malls in Oklahoma City and Spokane, Washington. The Spokane location opened in August 2019, while the Oklahoma City aquarium opened in July. Like the Mall of Louisiana, those retail outlets are owned by Brookfield Properties.
The aquarium is set up for children and adults to touch and feed stingrays, birds and lizards and see aquatic creatures such as sharks, clownfish, seahorses, jellyfish, octopus and starfish.
Wes Haws, founder and chief executive officer of Blue Zoo, told The Oklahoman newspaper in August that his company selects malls for locations because the industry is going through a transition away from strictly being a retail hub.
“People are shopping online and people are looking for experiences instead of buying things. They want that Facebook photo to show their friends and they want something they can take their kids to. Malls are looking to have more experience-based businesses and they’re willing to help with the expenses in building these places,” he told the newspaper.
Haws said the Spokane aquarium was on track to get 180,000 paid visitors during its first year before the coronavirus pandemic hit.