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Nordic News

The student news site of Inglemoor High School

Nordic News

Seattle Aquarium to finish expansion

Violet Kinsey (she/her)
Construction for the Seattle Aquarium Ocean Pavilion is in progress on Pier 51, and will be completed this summer.

Big changes are underway at Seattle’s historic Elliott Bay waterfront aquarium. Projected to finish construction in summer of 2024, this landmark building will complete significant renovations that began in December 2020. The new project, titled the Seattle Aquarium Ocean Pavilion, will connect people to all corners of the marine world while providing a greatly improved public waterfront experience.

Opened in 1977, the Seattle Aquarium has been in business for nearly 50 years and features nineteen fascinating exhibits, including an immersive outdoor harbor seal habitat and a transparent undersea dome that houses local fish. These attractions make it one of downtown Seattle’s most popular spots. Emily Malone (she/her), the Seattle Aquarium’s Public Relations specialist, said that the Ocean Pavilion is likely to increase the amount of guests the aquarium receives annually.

“Currently, the Seattle Aquarium sees approximately 850,000 visitors a year. Once the Ocean Pavilion opens, we’re expecting to see more than one million guests per year,” she said.

To help bring in guests, the aquarium prioritizes accessibility in its plans for the completed Ocean Pavilion. The open-concept public plaza will allow visitors access to sweeping coral reef views without purchasing a ticket. Seattle Aquarium will also continue to work with non-profit organizations to extend access to the aquarium, and has commissioned Coast Salish groups to create art for the aquarium’s interior.

The aquarium renovations are one of many developments along the Elliott Bay waterfront. The removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in 2019 and the rebuilding of Pier 58 in Seattle both opened up the area, connecting the beachfront boardwalk to the Puget Sound. Smaller renovations to the aquarium took place in 2007, when it attached an 18,000 square foot expansion to accommodate a store and cafe. The Ocean Pavilion will be the largest expansion of the aquarium to date, adding a total of 50,000 square feet of space.

The Ocean Pavilion’s new habitats will feature sharks, rays, and species native to the Pacific Northwest. Its convenient location – in the middle of the waterfront’s famous Pike Place Market – is expected to increase foot traffic threefold. Additionally, the Ocean Pavillion will feature informational plaques and demonstrations on conservation. Visitors will learn what they can do to combat ocean acidification, pollution, and climate change.

“When the Ocean Pavilion opens, it will help tell the story of our one world ocean. It will be a tool to help show what happens here in the Salish Sea has implications in the Coral Triangle and all around the world,” Malone said.

The Ocean Pavilion will also contribute to the Seattle Aquarium’s partnership with the ReShark program, which works to send eggs from aquariums to areas with dwindling shark populations in the Indopacific.

“The Ocean Pavilion will have one Indo-Pacific leopard shark living in the Reef habitat, but eventually, the goal is to add another so they can breed, allowing us to contribute eggs to the program,” Malone said.

Improving conservation and sustainability has been some of the Seattle Aquarium’s long-term goals. Since 2020, the aquarium has offset more carbon than it emits due to its collaboration with Evergreen Carbon. Its goals are to become a zero-waste facility by 2025, and reduce freshwater and seawater consumption by 25% from 2018 levels by 2030. Seattle Aquarium also hopes to become the first “climate positive” aquarium, meaning their environmental impact will be more positive than negative. This Ocean Pavilion project will be no different, with the aquarium using fully renewable materials for construction to mitigate potential environmental damage. By this summer, visitors will not experience new opportunities within the Seattle Aquarium, but also see the progress that it makes every day to give back to the environment.

“We are so excited for the Ocean Pavilion to open this summer,” Malone said. “This expansion has been several years in the making and it’s so amazing to see the building come to life before our eyes.”

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About the Contributors
Piper Kinsey (she/her)
Junior Piper Kinsey is beginning her first year on the Nordic staff as a reporter, and hopes to use this opportunity to learn more about the skills needed for meaningful journalism, share ideas, and work together with peers. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and friends, baking overly decorated cookies, and drawing.
Violet Kinsey (she/her)
Junior Violet Kinsey is beginning her first year on Nordic News as a reporter for the 2023-2024 school year. Through Nordic, she is looking forward to improving her writing skills and engaging with a community of writers. Her goals for the year include creating articles that interest people and learning more about journalistic writing. Outside of Nordic, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, getting out in nature, and listening to music.

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