OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - Stingrays, sharks and lizards are taking over almost 23,000 square feet of space at Quail Springs Mall.
“We're here by the Von Maur and we're taking seven spots upstairs and downstairs and combining them into one,” CEO and Founder Wesley Haws said.
Blue Zoo doesn't open until next July, but founder Wesley Haws says it will be a hands-on experience for kids.
“You`ll be able to pet the stingrays and starfish and be able to go inside the bird exhibit and the lizard exhibit,” Haws said.
Along with that, a nearly 30,000 gallon shark tank.
“We also have mermaid shows and pirate shows that happen during the day that kids just love,” Haw said.
This is the third location for Blue Zoo, with other indoor aquariums in Idaho Falls and Spokane, Washington all strategically located inside malls.
“One thing that's nice is you're in an air-conditioned space year-round, no matter what the weather is, you can enjoy time with your family and be with animals,” he said.
Blue Zoo almost didn't happen though after a horrific attack in Africa that almost killed the attraction's founder.
“I was running a large farming operation in Ethiopia and I was attacked by a villager,” Haws said.
Wes says he was hit in the back of the head with an ax and had to undergo multiple surgeries, then a years-long recovery process.
“It was after a couple of years I got a fish tank and that fish tank changed my whole life. I love learning about the chemistry and the fish and figuring out how to run saltwater tanks,” Haws said.
He now hopes Blue Zoo will make a splash with young visitors and ignite the same passion in them that he experienced.
“If you can educate and inspire a child then one of those children could be one of the ones that help our planet in the future,” Haws said.