Polin Waterparks introduced its new Polin Aquariums division last year, garnering interest from within the attractions industry about what the concept included. Now, the results of those initial conversations have begun to develop into full-fledged installations. The first is already under construction and will open in Anzali, Iran, next March.
Polin launched the new concept under the Funtastic Aquariums brand. The division allows the company to serve up multifaceted levels of expertise that let clients integrate an entirely new entertainment channel into their facilities. Polin’s oversight includes every detail of the installations: concepts, business plans, architecture, construction, procurement of living creatures and brand identities – all delivered by a team of experienced architects, engineers, biologists, veterinarians and technical experts.
While the name infers that the Funtastic Aquariums brand is primarily focused on fish species, invertebrates and other aquatic animals that live in aquatic habitats, it also includes a full offering of entertainment options including family entertainment centers (FECs), game centers and shopping. And while many amusement-style venues focus on fast-food-style eating, Funtastic Aquariums developments will provide fare for more sophisticated palates with a special food-and-beverage experience led by chefs who have worked at famous Michelin star restaurants.
Creating new opportunities for commerce
Polin’s first installation of its Funtastic brand will be the Anzali Aquarium being constructed in the Anzali Free Zone. Created to spur economic development, the Free Zone is located in Gilan province along the southern part of the Caspian Sea. It covers 9,400 hectares (23,228 acres) and 40 kilometers (25 miles) of shoreline.
Implemented in 2005, the zone offers special advantages such as its strategic transportation and transit position within the International North-South Transport Corridor. Businesses within the zone enjoy tax exemptions for 20 years, as well as customs-duties and value-added tax exemptions. Such incentives have spurred the construction of 14 hotels, motels and residential complexes with a capacity of 5,800 beds.
Tourism is now booming with the number of domestic and foreign visitors rising to 3.107 million from March 2016 to March 2017 compared to 2.3 million a year earlier – growth of 35 percent. A recreational pier is currently under construction as a pilot project to enhance marine tourism in the region setting up the Anzali Aquarium to be another major draw for visitors.
A first turnkey project
Construction on the US$22 million, three-story aquarium covers a footprint of 12,000 square meters (129,167 square feet). The aquarium complex fills 6,000 square meters (64,583 square feet) of that space, along with a 200-square-meter (2,153 square feet) FEC and arcade, as well as the eateries. Most notable will be the installation of Iran’s longest aquarium tunnel: 40 meters (131 feet).
Cüneyt Alpgüven, a Polin Aquariums partner, says the Anzali facility is the first turnkey project of Polin’s new Aquariums division. “Polin is handling all aspects, from the design and installation to the operation,” he explains. “That kind of oversight allows Polin to consider how to best integrate each aspect of the facility with all others to ensure visitors enjoy themselves in every regard. After all, we’re not simply building an aquarium – which is complicated enough on its own. We’re also creating a full attraction and entertainment center.”
In addition to the features already mentioned, the Anzali Aquarium will include:
35 different aquarium areas
A tropical reptiles section
A crocodile sector
A tropical birds section
Touch pools and interactive areas
A penguin section
A children’s playground
A bowling alley
A cafeteria and restaurant
A souvenir shop
An open-air children’s play area
A virtual reality (VR) cinema with moving seats
A green-screen “memory station” for photo sessions
Touch-screen information panels.
Bilge Pakis, Polin Waterparks design manager, says the Anzali Aquarium is one of the most unique projects Polin has ever taken on. “It’s particularly special for us being as it is the very first under our new Funtastic Aquariums brand,” he adds. “We anticipate it will attract a lot of interest.”
Polin Aquariums’ second Funtastic project is scheduled to come to Izmir, Turkey, also in 2018.
Visit Polin Aquariums station at the Polin Waterparks booth at IAAPA Attractions Expo this week at booth number 1378 for more information.