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Onondaga County Executive Unveils Plans For Aquarium At Syracuse's Inner Harbor

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced his plan for an aquarium at Syracuse's Inner Harbor.
John Smith
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced his plan for an aquarium at Syracuse's Inner Harbor.

The Onondaga County Executive wants to change the underutilized landscape of Syracuse’s Inner Harbor by building an $85 million aquarium to attract tourists and local visitors. Ryan McMahon announced the project Monday morning with Mayor Ben Walsh and others, and is including the aquarium in his next county budget proposal.

“We’re going to create hundreds of jobs, both construction and permanent. We’re going to transform this neighborhood and continue the momentum that we’ve had with the cleanup of Onondaga Lake. And we’re going to pay cash.”

The project differs from other projects originally envisioned for the Inner Harbor, including mixed use space for entertainment, nightlife, and restaurants. However, McMahon feels the aquarium would pave the way for other development there.

“I believe that all the vacant land here, after we make this investment, is more valuable and will be more attractive to the private sector to come in a develop around it.”

McMahon says CORP Development has control over the land and also may have other future plans. He says the goal was to transform the neighborhoods around Onondaga Lake into a recreational epicenter of our community. Rosamond Gifford Zoo Director Ted Fox feels an aquarium is a perfect match for Syracuse.

“You obviously need a couple of charismatic exhibits, with larger sharks or rays or…We haven’t gotten down to that curatorial level of the collection yet, but we know that those are important components," said Fox. "But with Onondaga Lake here, and all that we have to talk about with the cleanup of the lake and the rivers, you know we’re in one place in the country where water isn’t really an issue.”

The County Legislature still has to review the project details and approve the spending. McMahon plans to ask lawmakers for $35 million in the 2022 county budget and another $50 million the following year due to an anticipated money surplus at the close of 2021.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.