Aquarium, Water Park Coming to Stark County

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STARK COUNTY, Ohio -- It’s the first of its kind for the area: an aquarium and water park all in one.

"There are water parks in Ohio and in the United State, and there are some really great aquariums, but not on the same site,” said Senior Partner Rex Ferguson.

He’s one of several behind the construction of Hammond Aqualife Aquarium and Waterpark in Stark County, a new attraction that’s expected to be up and running in less than a year.

"On the water park side, we will have an interior tropical climate -- in fact, it'll be based on a Florida-scape with live palm trees, fruit trees, and Jamaica grass instead of concrete,” he said.

The aquarium will have all kinds of wildlife, too, including marine mammals that were rescued and could not be reintroduced to their natural habitat. Ferguson said they plan to use that as a learning opportunity.

“What better contribution to make than to educate everyone on the conservation of their natural habitat,” he said.

Beyond that, there will also be a number of community outreach programs, along with a unique opportunity to sign up for therapy with marine mammals.

"People who quite frankly, might not be able to come to our location will be able to be there and not only participate but interact with the wildlife, so we're very excited about that component,” said Community Programs Director Robb First.

As far as support goes, he said they’re getting a lot of it.

"The response and reaction has been fantastic. A lot of local and national contacts coming forward wanting to help make this come alive,” he said.

The project will cost roughly $52 million.


    • ST for kids

      Are you not the least bit interested in the education this man has or does not have? People follow so blindly believing what they are told when in fact, all roads lead to con-man.

      • James

        I have a friend that knew Christopher when he raised money for his non profit through his piano playing, The organization failed twice at his hand. Keep in mind, this was an organization that helped families of children stricken with cancer. I would inquire as to what makes him qualified to teach music therapy with no education or degree, and I would also question his previous work or business experience. Being a motivational speaker for the last few months does not qualify him as such. Sometimes, a talented man can also be very talented at story telling. It’s disingenuous to see him involved in raising and/or coordinating gifts and donations. The park may or may not be a good investment for Massillon but I am beside myself to know that this man will be part of it. Leads me to believe that those funding this park are either stupid or corrupt. Mayor Perry, which one is it?

  • Pocomoto

    Oh dear more abuse of rescued mammals, what learning would that be exactly and what marine mammals, Dolphins, Orca, Baluga??? Cheap tricks for paying customers by any chance? Swim with stressed abused Dolphins and annoy them therapy? I sincerely hope not!

    • maureen

      I couldn’t agree more! Please don’t take your children to a place that condones captivity. The mammals suffer–>Blackfish, The Cove.

  • Tracy V

    Guess some of you didn’t catch the part about “…including marine mammals that were rescued and could not be reintroduced to their natural habitat.” Can’t reintroduce them to their natural habitat, so, what? Oh! I know. Let’s just kill them.

    • Charles w

      So…..tell me, what would make and “animal” unable to be returned to its “natural” habitat? But at the same time fully functional to perform for children and simple minded people like yourself?

      • Fair and balanced

        How do so many people jump to the conclusion that the marine life will be used for shows? This says an aquarium AND a water park not an aquarium/water park.Kalahari is a water park. There is a BIG difference. I would think we would want to get some facts here before just ranting on how terrible this will be. Before we condemn this place let’s get some more information on what it will actually be.Natural oceanic habitats or show biz arena , that is the question
        IT states
        The aquarium will have all kinds of wildlife, too, including marine mammals that were rescued and could not be reintroduced to their natural habitat. Ferguson said they plan to use that as a learning opportunity.
        “What better contribution to make than to educate everyone on the conservation of their natural habitat,” he said.

        Now Clearly it says “the aquarium will have wild life too including marine mammals.” and “to educate everyone on their NATURAL HABITAT”.
        It would not be a natural habitat if they were preforming in tanks now would it? An aquarium is NOT a place for the seaworld type of entertainment. Sheds aquarium in Chicago is a magnificent place to visit with creatures living in very natural environments. A truly amazing and educational aquarium!! There are no “shows or tricks or whistle blowing trainers there. Just oceanic beauty and purity.

        Think about this. How do we know these dolphins and wales are intelligent? Research and study is the answer of course. When baby seals are clubbed and wales are captured by cruel means how do we get public attention and support to stop it? .Unfortunately we have to educate the public and let them know these creatures in a personal way. If we don’t then there is no more hope for their survival or humane treatment for them. They are just “fish” to many people until they actually see them or learn about them. Shows like Flipper and Free Willy have done more to make people love these creatures and demand humane treatment of them than all of the campaigns on their plight put together. Both of those “shows” used captive animals to educate and endear them to generations. They enlightened people of the intelligence and capabilities of these mammals. People will not become more involved and dedicated without being educated. Most people will NEVER see a killer whale, dolphin, sea turtle or even a shark. They will never know the abilities of these animals or their awesome uniqueness. Not unless they have the opportunity to see for their-selves. If they don’t know they don’t or won’t concern themselves with these creatures well being.

      • Tracy V

        Well, Charles W., I’m guessing that you have never heard of animals being injured in the wild, by predators, fishing nets, or watercraft propellers, I have seen documentaries on these issues, including sea turtles that lost a flipper from a shark attack, leaving them more susceptible to further attacks; manatees severely injured by propellers, leaving them badly injured, missing a fin or part of their tail, making them more vulnerable. But, you have likely never seen this while you were sitting in your underwear in a beanbag chair in your mom’s basement, trolling the internet. But, hey, that’s OK. At least I won’t have to stand in line behind you at the aquarium/water-park.

      • Jennifer

        Charles before you call people simple minded maybe you should do your research. I just visited two facilities (one being the zoo) in San Francisco that rescued animals that yes, could not be reintroduced to the wild. They were sea lions, both had been shot in the heads by fisherman that were upset because they were trying to get their fish. One was now blind and the other could not go underwater to get food, so these facilities took them in and have given them a good home. So yes there are times animals cannot be released back into the wild!!

  • ally

    first let me say that this would actually give ppl a good reason to go to ohio…second ..I dont see whats wrong with putting animals that cant go back in the wild in a aquarium…unless their lying about that but like the guy said …what else would we do with them if they cant go back to the wild..kill them?…nooo so why not put them in a nice aquarium… dont exactly agree with making them do tricks and stuff…thats not their purpose in life. But all in all the people that handle the animals do their jobs because they love animals and dont want to harm them or stress them out, its not their intention

    • Charles w

      I mean really think about this….. they claim to have these animals that are to sick, injured or what have you to return to open water but wait…….let’s put em’ in this little tank…..that’ll fix em’! That’ll give their lives purpose! They won’t get extremely depressed or possibly dangerous. ….nope never…

  • Lora Weider

    I have nothing against the water park, I do not agree with using animals to make a buck. I do not agree with keeping them captive. I do however agree with giving them a wonderful home and food for the rest of their lives if they cannot be reintroduced to the wild. My bug in the deal is that canton, or stark county cannot fix the stinking roads but they can pay 52 million or more for entertainment. No one is going to want to drive these roads to get entertained or therapy. I just think they should get their priorities straight.

  • cs

    I think this is a great idea and exactly what canton needs! !!!!! We need the jobs and entertainment and it will help the economy alot around here!!

    • stewart

      Canton is a shit hole……52 million could be put to better use……like cleaning up your shit hole city before you worry about fish tanks.

  • B Davis

    I do hope that people educate themselves and do not condone marine mammal captivity under the guise of “therapy”, for either the captive animals or the therapy patients. Dolphins do not have magical healing powers. Nor is there any research indicating that use of “dolphin therapy” demonstrates any benefit beyond other more conventional forms of physical or occupational therapy. These animals are subjected to an inordinate amount of stress and their life expectancy is around 4 years in captivity. They are sentient, highly intelligent animals that cannot live in the confinement of an aquarium, no matter if it cost 52 million or not. If these animals truly cannot be returned to their pod, the only truly humane option is a netted ocean sanctuary with minimal human contact. Please educate yourselves. This is solely for profit at the animals’ expense, and the argument for rehabilitation and education is a poor excuse.

  • Lonnie Clayton

    @Lora, how do you think cities/counties raise money to fix roads? Tax income. What brings in tax money? Successful business. Or those tax dollars can keep going north to Kalahari, or to Pittsburgh or Columbus to thier aquariums. Why is it everytime someone wants to do something to help tha Canton area, someone has to put it down? The City is not building it, so saying they can do build that and not fix the roads is just a foolish thing to say.l

  • Barb Schmidt

    Rescued..I hope they say Where the rescued come from…funny you only hear about all these animals needing a place to stay when someone wants to build a park to put them in……..and why they can’t be put back in the wild…Great PR…thats all these places have to say is “We rescued them and they can’t go back in the wild” and people believe it….like I said great PR!!!! But some people are seeing through this finally.
    The place looks awesome WITHOUT the “rescued” mammals…and no they should NOT be captive to raise money for the area, really. I guess some people will find a reason for this to be ok with them..
    And no therapy with captive animals does not work for either party. I did some research on this and it again another great PR move that people want to believe…
    Times are changing I hope they see that with the SW controversy people are changing their opinions of the captive sea mammals…no park can be a great place for them.

    • Aaron

      In glade you think this place looks awesome…. But are people going to come from all over to see water? An empty aquarium filled with natural stark co bugs?! No!! They will come to see exotic animals that they may never see again.

  • Kristine Vaughan

    I know — they could use all of that CLEAN fracking water for both the water park and the aquarium!!! If it’s salt water, they can use brine because that’s safe too!

  • Fair and balanced

    We need to come to a middle ground here. One based on common sense and reason. We need to make up our minds and evaluate our positions on this with a little less Hippocracy IMO.
    All animals are creatures of nature. Do you have a dog or a cat. It is a pure bread? Well then you support the genetic alteration for your own purposes. Genetics that pre dispose one breed to hip displasia or bloat. Another breed to blindness or breathing disorders, or petela displacements or spinal problems. Another to deafness and some to heart problem Or SO much more ALL of which is painful and often fatal conditions caused by perfecting a breed that most people desire.
    So while you are loving your Lab or playing with you dalmatian or hugging you little lovable dachshund or Persian remember by owning them you promote and support the industry that causes these dogs and cats a terrible suffering via genetic alterations to have the right appearance and temperament to make them appeal to people just like you. So it may not be a “natural” thing to have a dolphin in captivity but pure bread animals are not natural either.
    Do you have an aquarium, a gold fish , a parrot or a bird in your home?
    Have you ever allowed your child a to have a pet turtle, lizard, bunny, hamster, gerbil, rat, horse or pony?
    Do you support 4-H ? Where kids raise animals from birth to young maturity and then sell them for meat?
    Do you eat chicken? A small harmless bird that is docile and actually has a personality ? A carefree life . When you eat a chicken dinner you take that life for one meal!! How about veal or lamb chops? A small cafe or a suckling lamb died for your pleasure of a meal. A life for a one time meal? Seems pretty uneven in a trade off don’t you think?
    Where do we draw the line on caring? Why Is a fish dinner OK but having fish or marine life in captivity not?
    Why is ok to have a dog but not a dolphin? To protest an aquarium but not 1000’s of healthy animals being euthinized?
    Did you know that the average Humane Society euthanizes over 800 cats per year? Healthy viable animals. So many are loving and wonderful pets. But because we are a throw away society these animals die.Their bodies are sold to the local hospitals to train medical students in dissection and organ identification.
    How many dogs that are pets see the same fate each year? Thousands!! What are you doing to help save even one of those animals?
    All animals are creatures of nature. We as humans desired to own them for work and pleasure. That is not what they were here for originally.
    All are decedents of wild creatures.
    So if you feel so strongly about this aquarium that could educate people and make them more responsible to our Oceans, streams and wildlife shouldn’t you start pounding the drum in your own home first?
    Do you live what you preach? Most people don’t.

    The entire way we choose to look at these issues is hypocritical and unbalanced.

    The marine biologists above is a great example of what these aquariums do to stimulate interest and education in the mammals and aquatic creatures..Through education and first hand contact comes concern and preservation and more of these creatures can be saved.from human ignorance and even extinction. I see a lot more benefit to a public aquarium that can educate generations than I see in killing an animal for one meal.
    The article states a water park and aquarium. Water park as in slides and water rides. Aquarium as in Cleveland or Chicago.

    These creatures live a lot longer than 4 years in captivity. Many would not survive at all if not cared trained professionals.

    We need to look at ourselves and our view points. When we know 800 cats per year are killed at one shelter alone and we say and do nothing and then act all protective over a marine mammal that is cared for in a humane way and saved from death in the wild…SOMETHING IS ASKEW HERE…what… the cat is less of a life than the dolphin? I don’t think so.

    I would rather have a well run sanctuary for the 800 cats a day than a needle in their body any day and I feel the same for this and all well run and educational Aquariums across the US.

    • B Davis

      Comparing marine mammals in captivity to keeping cats or dogs as pets is an apples to oranges comparison. Our pets are domesticated. Cetaceans can never be. And I agree with you that too many animals are euthanized in shelters every day, but again, the irresponsibility of some owners is a wholly separate issue from discussing cetaceans in captivity. None of the dolphins, orcas and small whales would be in captivity now were it not for direct capture and ongoing captive breeding programs. There is an annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan, which is where many of these animals come from. They are violently herded to shore, while trainers select the younger, more attractive animals, and the remaining pod is butchered on site. It is one of the most inhumane acts I have ever seen, made even more stomach – turning because these animals are completely aware of what is happening to them and their family members. This is the source of many of the dolphins in captivity today. This practice will continue as long as people believe there is no harm in keeping these animals in captivity. And on a side note, since Seaworld started keeping orcas, 125 of their 141 animals have died in captivity. These are animals with an average life expectancy of over 50 years, many of which were captured as healthy young animals.

      • Fair and balanced

        I am not sure I agree with you on these issues being different. An animal is an animal.The issues are all the same. Pure bred animals with genetic deficiencies who suffer from the human altering to increase profitability,Yes the are domesticated or “pets” but they suffer because they are. So saying there is a difference is a bit like looking past the truth IMO. It is human interference that cause suffering. I think we can agree on that possibly. To say oh well its a domesticated dog who is suffering with hip displasia due to inbreeding to achieve appearance to increase profit or a dolphin who is suffering because of being in captivity to entertain the public to produce profit, I see no difference there at all . The dog is suffering and according to your research so is the dolphin. Both will have a poor quality of life and a shorter life expectancy because of human interference in their natural world.
        To say “but again, the irresponsibility of some owners is a wholly separate issue from discussing cetaceans in captivity” you are closing your eyes to reality. It is again the same issue. The issues are both the irresponsibility of Humans. People using animals for their own purposes. whether it is entertainment, championship, food or just for the pleasure of owning or having one.It is all the same. It is about human responsibility to animals or living creatures.It is about caring about the price a living being pays to bring pleasure to humans.
        Look at the octopus, proven to be highly intelligent with highly developed problem solving skills. Do you protest the Chinese buffets in Stark County, with baby squid and octopus on the menu?
        Do you go to those shelters and protest , or donate to a no kill shelter or protest puppy mills or help volunteer to educate on the cruelty of un spade and un neutered pets, or take up the cause of all creatures being used for human pleasure ? If not then why protest any animals plight? . Because you like it more? Because it is more politically correct?
        All animals who are helpless and have no voice need defense. If you think it is ok for one to be used as entertainment or pleasure and not the other then You are choosing to be just like them. You become a person who sees nothing wrong with an animal’s suffering needlessly for profit or entertainment.
        This facility has not even been built yet, No one knows where their animals , fish and creatures will come from. We do not know how or why their creatures are in captivity or how they will be kept and cared for. Yet the horror stories are flowing about how cruel this will be.

        On the other hand the “shelters”, pounds, pet mills pet breeders across america are well established. We know 1000’s of innocent lives are cut short needlessly every day. There is no educational value in those shelters, pounds or mills. No purpose in them that will be offered to help educate the public into caring.
        I will take 10 dolphins being in captivity to help their over all cause and educate the public of their often cruel treatment over 1000 pets being euthanized in one day for nothing any day..
        1000 dolphins in a year or or 1000 pets in a month. Which is worse?

  • Rliz

    If you don’t like it don’t go. No one is making you. Places like this educate and teach children and adults so much. I don’t agree with abuse or anything but the rescued animals need a place to live and a way to pay for them. There might be to many animals out there that need homes for a netted ocean home with no human contact. Wonder who’s going to pay for that.

  • david Stein

    This is a waterpark and aquarium – winters in Stark Country – what it becomes an olympic training ice rink then_? And what outside life do the animals have durring winter there – this is sheme to make money getting it built, and nothing else. They add abit of the wildlife jargon like helping animals that could not be released back into the wild to paint it nicer – that is a myth science and many animals thought to be unable to get back into the wild successfully do….. This is a distraction – if that amount can be raised should go to creating jobs….

  • Rachel

    Again, people putting their own financial greed ahead of the needs of others. “Animals that are ‘rescued’ ” huh? Unless you see dolphins without a tail or turtles missing a fin due to human fishing nets, the animal was more than likely kidnaped from it’s family than ‘rescued’. We’re fighting so hard to release the cetaceans from Sea World, seaquarium and Marine land and this a**hole comes along and wants to build a new park! Human GREED makes me so sick….

  • Tracy A

    I for one hope it happens. If it can get one misguided teen off of the street and into a life of caring for endangered sea life then I view it as a win win situation. Not to mention the revenue generated from this attraction just may actually put Canton back on the “Good” side of living.

  • Stacie Hill

    just a thought here…i have read the article and the comments…never seen anywhere that they are building a sea world type park…or anything of that magnitude. nor have i seen anything about which types of mammals they are talking about…soooo everyone is all riled up for?? nothing as usual. someone always has to be unhappy for 1 reason or another. if u dont like it or dont approve…DONT GO. simple really

  • sheenah

    I love the idea. And for the ones who have such a problem with keeping these animals captive, why don’t you go protest when they announce the location. You spouting off useless information about animal rights and animals kept in captivity isn’t getting you anywhere on here. If you really care about the animals, go out and get 10,000 people to sign a petition to stop it from happening. Ugh peta wanna-be’s…

  • steve c

    located in massillon city limits on 22 acres of the legends golf course. wcourse will reduce to 18 holes

  • Tyler

    People do realize that they said “aquarium”, not sea world. Like the Newport aquarium in Kentucky, or an aquarium you would visit at the zoo. They didn’t say they’re creating another tilikum. Seeing a documentary doesn’t make you an activist. This sounds like it’ll be really cool.

  • Matt

    The waterpark will be going by the Massillon Legends golf course. The course is being reduced from 26 holes to18, to make room for the park. This means the park will be in the Massillon city limits.

  • Kenneth Lee Jones

    This is wonderful news. There are far too many Ohioans leaving the state for sunny Florida. After this past winter, who can blame them. Maybe this attraction will help keep a few, just a little bit longer.

  • Person

    Sure have them build it in your back yard, not mine! There are a lot of eye sores in the Massillon area that could use a little fixing up but not the Legends Golf Course community!!

  • ST for kids

    Someone should definitely vet this “concert” pianist. Inquire as to his failed non-profit not once, but twice that involved kids with cancer. Maybe double check the resume…..references??? In charge of gifts and donations, music therapy? Can I sell you the Brooklyn Bridge? Just because you can play a piano, does not mean you have values or morals. The Mayor and City Council need to do their homework before this becomes a huge black eye.

  • Caitlyn

    The ignorance of some of these people. I’m a biology major. Sometimes animals can not be returned to their natural habitat because of many reasons. One being they were injured and can not defend themselves or do mot have the means or ability to hunt for food. Like a runt in a litter, the bigger stronger ones tend to feed first and the more weak feed last if at all. Another reason could be their natural habitat was destroyed. Example, oil spilling into their habitat, forest fires. Also, their habitat may have a higher predation rate due too other environmental factors like flooding, tsunami’s etc.

  • grumpycat

    Pretty sure this is kinda where it’s going? If it’s definitely going in? Depending upon where they are in the design phase, there could still be room for explanation about the animals. An aquarium doesn’t simply have to be an aquarium. It can also be about science & or earth science. How man made things things work that were inspired by nature. How man made things effect the environment & what we should do to help them (or even us for that matter). If it inspires kids to help the animals, then awesome.

    Typically for this area it’s always about Football or nothing/doesn’t get built if it’s not about football. So you could have your kids go on a family vacation to Canton to learn about football. That may not interest them. Or take them to a water park sliding down slides not learning anything. Or they could learn something about nature & animals & maybe science, while having fun at a water park. Just MAY get more kids interested in nature & animals. As opposed to having your daughter becoming the 1st muscle bound line backer for a football team, not interested in saving a whale n hugging a tree, but more interested in having a good time being lazy in an inner-tube.

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