Living Planet Aquarium getting bigger and better

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Why would a shark cross the road?

In the case of the Living Planet Aquarium, the sharks will be crossing a few roads to get to their new location. After six years of residence in an old craft store, the aquarium is about to both triple in size and move neighborhoods.

The new facility will be in Draper, just off the I-15. Angie Hyde, the director of public relations said they should break ground for the new site within the next month, and hope to be finished with the new building by next June.

“We have been in our current location for six years,” Hyde said. “Our attendance and employment levels are maximized and the demand is still growing. The city has given us an $11.7 million dollar loan in order to build our new facility, along with $7 million we have already raised.”

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Artist's rendition of the new aquarium
The old building was 43-thousand-square-feet and the new facility is 140-thousand-square-feet, Hyde said.

The new building will have many of the same exhibits with more animals in addition to a new look and new exhibits said Andy Allison, the curator of animals.

The aquarium is receiving animals from all over the country to be included in the new building. Allison explained the shark tank will be much larger and have more species of sharks than before.

Patrons who are scuba certified will be able to experience a special treat.

“We are starting a dive program in our shark tank,” Hyde said. “It will be a great opportunity. People in Utah will no longer need to drive to the ocean to dive with sharks.”

The art director, Chris Barela, said the basic layout of the building is planned and they are now focusing on the details of each gallery.

“For example, in the Amazon gallery, it will be like you are in the Amazon jungle,” Barela said. “There will be birds flying in the canopy of the 40-foot trees, ponds, fish and animals native to the area and sounds of the jungle. Our goal is to put you in the part of the world we are representing.”

The new aquarium will feature many educational opportunities as well. Barela explained that it will look as if a research vessel, the NOAA ship, is parked in part of the lobby. The ship will have different interactive tools, including a theater, that will teach about the earth’s eco system.

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Artist's rendition of the upper level of the NOAA vessel
Allison explained everything is going to be bigger and better than before with some new additions. For example, on the outside of the building, LED lights of all colors will create a light show. There will also be an exhibit that will change every year, thus giving visitors a new experience.

The touch pools will be expanded and contain invertebrates, horse shoe crabs, star fish and sting rays. Barela said there has never been any other facility built like the aquarium that he and the workers are planning.

“If you think to yourself, ‘I have already been to the aquarium, I don’t need to go again,’ think twice, because this is going to be a whole new experience,” Barela said.

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