The Dells could be getting fishier in the future.

“There are two different groups interested in the Wisconsin Dells as a market for bringing in an aquarium,” said Kevin Ricks, BID Committee member.

He said Ripley’s has been working on a smaller market aquarium for the past five or six years. They have three markets in mind, one being the Dells, he said at the BID Committee meeting Feb. 7.

At a convention with Ripley’s in October, Ricks had a meeting with them and they presented a finished design for a smaller market aquarium, he said.

“It’s as close as they’ve ever been to pursuing a small market aquarium and they are ready,” he said.

The aquarium would be between 35 and 50 thousand square feet, he said. He said property is the most important thing to determine whether an aquarium comes in or not.

He said they’re looking at two different properties and have had discussions with the owners.

Within the next few weeks, he said they’ll find out if they can reach a workable number with the property owners. He said it won’t happen if the owners stay at the numbers they’re at.

Many of the big markets Ripley’s has worked with have provided generous incentive packages, including the donation of the land, he said.

“The fact Ripley’s is even considering purchasing this land is a plus for us,” he said. “They believe in this market.”

He said the reasons Ripley’s would not do it is if they can’t acquire the property they’re interested in or if there are no incentives from the city.

A second group that includes past Ripley’s people are also interested in the Dells, he said.

“It will be Ripley Entertainment that will have the first shot at it,” he said.

He said he think Ripley’s will make the decision within the next three months whether it’s a go or not.

“We’re at that phase right now where it is a very real possibility,” he said.

There is a third property Ripley’s is not interested in, but the second group is.

Committee member Kyler Royston said he has massive support for the aquarium. He said it would be a big mistake if they don’t support it and make it happen.

Ricks has also been pursing Dr. Evermor’s collection with Corena Ricks.

The collection has a huge following from around the world and each piece has a story to tell, he said.

He said Dr. Evermor would love to see it go into the Dells and that they have postponed other towns that are interested to see if the Dells wants it.

Ricks said they have been working with the DNR on a piece of property across the River. Corena and him envision the Riverwalk starting on the other side of the river, especially if they can acquire the property.

He said it could station an amphitheater, Evermor’s Forevertron and its accompanying pieces. He wants to see the railroad bridge turned into a pedestrian bridge underneath and talked with Tommy Thompson who believes it would be a possibility, Ricks said. He said a trail system could connect projects.

“Here in Wisconsin Dells, if you could combine that experience of nature with the energy of a downtown within walking distance, I truly don’t know of any place that has that,” he said.

Kelli Trumble, chairperson of the committee, asked if this is something the committee would like to get behind and really help bring it to the Dells.

“This is the biggest, neatest, most eclectic art collection in maybe the Midwest,” said Jesse DeFosse, committee member. He said it’s the most original idea they’ve got.

“You can’t duplicate it,” he said.

Ricks said they need a decision to know if they should move forward. Ideas for funding will be discussed at the next meeting, Feb. 21.

In other business

  • The BID Committee voted unanimously to ask the City Council to delay decisions about the plaza until after the summer to allow more time for discussion and exploration of alternative locations if it needs to be moved or evolves into a permanent plaza. The movement in retail is experience, said Tara Anchor, owner of Winnebago Gift Shop. She said visitors aren’t going downtown just to get the least expensive t-shirt. “They’re coming downtown because they want an experience while they are here,” she said. The plaza is an asset when that’s the goal, she said. DeFosse said he’s been to the plaza over a dozen times and ran into more locals than he’d ever run into at MACS, High Rock or Showboat. “Half of that group is always locals,” he said.
  • Royston said Sunday, May 20, marks the first Farmers Market of the year, which is the same weekend as Automotion. He said they want the market to be at the plaza and a special event permit is in. “Once the location gets approved, it’ll just be a matter of recruiting vendors,” he said. The vendor price was lowered this year because of sponsors from last year. “Everything you can do to make it more enticing for them to come is a good thing,” he said. Trumble suggested having culinary demos at the market like Shorewood does to cross-promote local businesses and show culinary art. She said it could be pretty low cost to put together.