the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, North America's
largest indoor butterfly pavilion is emerging from vacant acreage
just east of Scottsdale.
Butterfly Wonderland is the first phase
of a 35-acre, $170million entertainment complex at the northeastern
corner of the Pima Freeway and Via De Ventura, on the Salt River
The site is teeming with construction
activity, with about 50 workers on site daily.
The complex, called Odysea in the Desert,
is being funded by principal partner Amram Knishinsky and a group
of private investors. Other principals are Northern Gateway LLC,
Martin Pollack and Rubin Stahl.
Butterfly Wonderland will encompass 5acres
and is scheduled to open in late April. The overall project includes
four phases totaling 522,000 square feet.
"The atrium part of construction started
last week, and for the last three months, it was manufactured in
Cincinnati," Knishinsky said. "The main portion of the roof is on
trucks and will be coming here in the next few days."
The project will be the latest addition
to an emerging entertainment corridor that includes the Talking
Stick Resort and Casino, two adjacent golf courses and the Salt
River Fields spring-training baseball complex.
At Butterfly Wonderland, visitors will
"embark on an enchanting journey through the life of a butterfly"
via educational and interactive exhibits, leading up to the experience
of walking among thousands of butterflies inside a glass atrium
with tropical plants and waterfalls.
"We plan to import the butterflies from
various tropical rain forests throughout the world, but that is
going to take place closer to the opening date," Knishinsky said.
"We're going to bring them from Costa Rica, Brazil, the Philippines
and some areas of Africa. They come in cocoons and go through the
process in our laboratories."
The pavilion also will include domestic
butterflies from Florida.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has
approved the design of the pavilion, as well as the procedures for
bringing the butterflies into the country, Knishinsky said.
"We have purchased all the tropical trees
and the vegetation that are going to be planted in the pavilion,
and they will arrive sometime in the next 60 days," he said.
In addition, Butterfly Wonderland will
include a 3-D, stadium-seating butterfly theater, as well as aquarium
displays, a children's play area, retail shop and cafe, Knishinsky
The Scottsdale Convention & Visitors
Bureau expects Butterfly Wonderland will be a positive addition
to the area's tourist offerings.
"We are thrilled to welcome Butterfly
Wonderland to the greater Scottsdale area in 2013," said Megan Neighbor,
the bureau's communications coordinator. "Much like the Musical
Instrument Museum or Taliesin West, Butterfly Wonderland promises
to be another world-class attraction that will serve as a strong
economic driver for the tourism community."
City Councilman Ron McCullagh said the
project is another example of how the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian
Community values and is committed to tourism and quality of life.
"They are great neighbors and we embrace
their efforts," he said.
Scottsdale-based Renaissance Cos. is handling construction
of Butterfly Wonderland. Massive steel girders are being put in
place to hold the glass for the pavilion, said David Tilson, the
firm's vice president.
"In the next couple of weeks, you'll be
surprised at the amount of changes," he said.
Once the pavilion is enclosed, liners
will be installed, as well as soil and plants to create the sterile
rain forest environment, Tilson said. In addition, labs are being
built and that's where the butterfly chrysalises will be grown and
hatched, he said.
The average lifespan of butterflies is
two weeks, so lab workers will be constantly incubating chrysalises,
Tilson said. Visitors will be able to watch the lab workers, he
"It's really going to be cool," he said.
The Central Arizona Butterfly Association
is excited about Butterfly Wonderland, said Adriane Grimaldi, a
"It gives another opportunity for the
public to learn about the wonders of butterflies," she said. "They
are truly amazing their life cycle, the process they go through.
This type of facility gives people of all ages the chance to see
butterflies up close all year long."
The second phase of Odysea in the Desert will be Odysea Aquarium,
a freshwater and saltwater aquarium attraction with an IMAX theater,
and multiple restaurants and retail, Knishinsky said.
"We're looking to start construction in
early 2014 and it will be somewhere between 18 and 24 months of
construction," he said. "It will be much larger than the first phase,
close to over 200,000 square feet."
The final two phases will include a Ripley's
Believe It or Not museum and what's being called the Arizona Experience.
The experience will be a "voyage through the ages," from the creation
of Arizona, through the Spanish occupation and the Wild West, "in
a unique, Grand Canyon auditorium-type of experience," Knishinsky
"The Arizona Experience will be a combination
of film and interactive, basically applying to all the senses, sight
down to smell, and so forth," he said.
Each restaurant at Odysea in the Desert
will feature cuisine from around the world, Knishinsky said.
"We've been receiving great interest from
various businesspeople who would like to open stores and restaurants,
and family entertainment centers as part of it," he said.
Steve Geiogamah, Scottsdale's tourism
development coordinator, said the city will benefit from visitors
having another local amenity, and therefore potentially extending
"Also, we've always tried to target things
for children to do in Scottsdale and this may be an opportunity
to do that," he said.