THE Lake District got a new all-weather attraction back in 1997 with the official opening of a £1.7m aquarium at Lakeside, near Newby Bridge.

It is now called Lakes Aquarium but started life as the Lakeside Aquatarium and was expected to attract at least 150,000 visitors a year.

The Mail on Friday, May 23 in 1997, noted: "The new building has been cleverly designed to blend in with other buildings at Lakeisde terminus, being built of the same yellow ochre-coloured bricks.

"Lakeside Aquatarium got off to a flying start before Wednesday's official opening.

"Around 1,000 people had a sneak preview after children from Leven Valley School, Backbarrow, launched the facilities.

"Since work began youngsters from the school have been following the progress of the aquatarium.

"The centre holds the largest collection of freshwater species in the United Kingdom and traces the story of a Lakeland river from a mountain top to Morecambe Bay.

"Centrepiece of the new attraction is a recreated Lake Windermere display, complete with a bridge, waterfall and underwater tunnel, where fish swim above the viewers' heads.

The story was the construction process was told in the Mail, on December 16 in 1996.

It noted: " The ambitious project is being built by John Sisk and Son Construction who are using local contractors for the development which got under way during the last week in October.

"Despite recent bad weather it's on course for completion in May."

Site manager Peter Robinson said: "Everything's going OK and although we've had some bad weather we've only lost two-and-a-half days."

Display supervisor at the new attraction was Tim Woodburn, from Ulverston.

His creatures for first-day visitors to see included thornback and spotted rays, seahorses and pochard and tufted ducks.

After being open for just four months, the new attraction landed the Tourism For All award from Cumbria Tourist Board and picked up a silver award from the Chartered Institute of Marketing Travel Industry Group.

Manager at the Lakeside site, Nikki Hasell, said: "These are fantastic achievements and have given us a real boost."

The Lakes Aquarium hit the headlines in July 2011 when used tennis balls from the courts at Wimbledon were given a unique second use as nests for mice.