The New Jersey State Aquarium, a $52 million project designed to revitalize one of the state's most downtrodden cities, opened Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, songs and throngs of visitors.
Some 120 demonstrators gathered outside the waterfront facility to protest the aquarium's failure to generate sorely needed jobs for city residents. Some protestors also objected to the use of fish for public entertainment.Opening ceremonies, originally planned for the plaza overlooking the Delaware River and the Philadelphia skyline on the opposite bank, were moved inside because of a bone-chilling wind.
"This will lead to the rebirth of Camden," said former Gov. Thomas Kean, who cut the ribbon with Gov. Jim Florio and First Lady Lucinda Florio. The facility has been named after Kean because of his long support for the project.
Hundreds of people lined up for two hours to get into the aquarium, which boasts the second largest tank in the United States after the Epicot Center in Florida.
The aquarium eschews the exotic and instead concentrates on 200 species of fish drawn mainly from the seas and streams of the mid-Atlantic region. Among its 35 viewing tanks are some where visitors can touch the fish, including sharks and rays.