Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium took its next step in the opening of the brand new Pacific Seas Aquarium with a groundbreaking event on July 11. The groundbreaking saw a parade of children dressed as turtles and sharks representing the aquatic creatures that will begin occupying the new aquarium in 2018, as well as a turnout out of over 100 Tacoma residents anxious to see construction get underway.
“We are building an aquarium that will introduce generations of visitors to the wonders of the world’s oceans,” said Erik Hanberg, president of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners. “The voters of Tacoma approved money for this project in a 2014 bond election, and we are confident that the finished project will not only meet - but very likely surpass - their expectations. There will definitely be a ‘wow’ factor in this long wished-for new aquarium.”
The state-of-the-art aquarium is due to open in summer 2018, replacing the Zoo's aging North Pacific Aquarium. Hammerhead sharks, green sea turtles and spotted eagle rays are planned to be among the aquarium's new species.
“The Pacific Seas Aquarium will not only replace the outdated North Pacific Aquarium, it will build a new legacy of ocean conservation among visitors to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium,” Deputy Director John Houck said. “We expect our visitors to enjoy the very colorful exhibits showcasing animals from Puget Sound to Baja Calif., and we believe they will leave with a new commitment to helping the world’s oceans, which are facing threats from overfishing, pollution and climate change.”
The “sharks” and “sea turtles” got to break out their shovels and make the first official dig for the new aquarium, something they will be able to enjoy and learn from growing up. The rest of the day was spent celebrating aquatic life, including events like Peering at Plankton and a Stingray Feed.
New exhibits will include:
Baja Bay: A 250,000-gallon warm-water exhibit, which will be home to scalloped hammerhead sharks, green sea turtles and spotted eagle rays.
Northwest Waters: A 75,000-gallon exhibit highlighting Pacific Northwest marine life.
Coastal Kelp Forest: A tank featuring giant strands of kelp similar to the kelp forests found off the coast of Southern California.
Tidal Touch Zone: An engaging space offering hands-on and up-close experiences for people of all ages.
Of course, the new aquarium will carry over many exhibits from the North Pacific Aquarium that serve to highlight the diverse marine life of Puget Sound.
This project, along with other Zoo capital projects, is made possible by voters’ approval in 2014 of a $198 million Metro Parks Tacoma bond issue, with more than $65 million earmarked for capital improvements at the Zoo.
The aquarium is one of the bigger parts of “Destination: Point Defiance,” a concentrated effort to enhance the experience of Point Defiance Park. Other projects slated for this summer include improvements near the Pearl Street entrance and a Tacoma Public Schools-funded Environmental Learning Center to be built on zoo grounds.