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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A massive new museum and aquarium in the southwest Missouri city of Springfield is a “game-changer,” the mayor said.

The Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium opened last week in a celebration more common in Hollywood or New York, not the Ozarks. Presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were there, along with celebrities like Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Costner, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. In fact, Wahlberg and Zinke scuba-dived into the aquarium.

The $290 million, 350,000-square-foot conservation-focused venue was envisioned by John Morris, CEO of Springfield-based Bass Pro Shops. It is a not-for-profit facility that includes 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds from 800 species. The aquarium itself has 1.5 million gallons of water.

Mayor Ken McClure told the Springfield News-Leader that his city has already been “on the map,” but the museum and aquarium create a “game-changer” that takes Springfield to another level.

Residents agreed.

“I think it’s something Springfield can be very proud of,” Springfield resident Bruce Nasby said. “I hope the message gets out around the world that they need to come to Springfield to see this museum and aquarium.”

Apparently the message is out. More than 3,000 people attended the grand opening of the museum, which is larger than the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Advertising has been big-time too — the venue was advertised in Times Square in New York.


Information from: Springfield News-Leader,