The New England Aquarium plans to build the largest aquarium facility in the world - including a football-field size tank for whales and dolphins - at the historic Charlestown Navy Yard, home of the world's oldest active-duty naval vessel, officials said.

Plans to build a $130 million, 308,602-square-foot facility at the naval yard - home of "Old Ironsides," the U.S.S. Constitution - are contigent upon the approval of city officials and area residents, aquarium officials said. The aquarium is located on Boston's Central Wharf.The new aquarium - billed as "the largest, most spectacular and most technologically advanced in the world" - will be able to accommodate as many as 10,300 visitors every three hours. The existing aquarium, which opened in 1969, hosts 1.3 million people a year, although it was designed to accommodate only 600,000 visitors a year.

The project calls for the flooding of the Navy Yard's Dry Dock No. 2, which is 700 feet by 114 feet and 35 feet deep, and building underwater tanks - including one football field-sized tank to house whales and dolphins.

The dry dock, property of the Boston Redevelopment Agency, would be sold to the aquarium's trustees for $1, officials said.

The site was chosen "because of its historic connection with Boston Harbor as well as its attraction as a national tourist destination," said Dean W. Freed, the aquarium's executive vice president.

The site was chosen over two other alternatives, expanding Central Wharf or moving the aquarium from the city, and the aquarium board of trustees voted Monday to study the Charlestown option, according to the proposal released Thursday.

Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn said local residents would have a voice in the aquarium's location.

"A move to Charlestown must meet with the support of the community, and careful attention must be paid to traffic and any other effects on the quality of life in that neighborhood," Flynn said.

The new facility, which would be slated to open in 1994, would feature sharks, penguins, a tidepool, hands-on laboratory, and a giant tank, which would contain 1.7 million gallons of water and several species of ocean life. The existing aquarium has a similar tank, but it holds only 187,000 gallons.