Vancouver Aquarium’s $25 Million Facelift

Photo: Remy Scalza

Celebrating its 56th birthday this year, the venerable Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park has decided it’s time for a facelift.  A recent article in the Vancouver Sun explains that the aquarium has just been awarded $25 million in federal and provincial funding to jumpstart its revitalization.  Work is scheduled to begin in September and continue all the way into 2013 – But don’t worry, doors will remain open to guests throughout the reno.

So what should visitors expect to see in the months and years ahead?  The most visible changes will be to the big outdoor pools that are currently home to the aquarium’s beloved beluga whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins.  A new pool will be added between the two existing ones, and the entire area will be leveled out to form a giant watery playground for the aquarium’s marine life.  The other big change will be a new entrance to the aquarium – something a little grander and more enticing than the current low-key awning.

Photo: Remy Scalza

Other work is planned is well – eight projects in all, totaling $60 million (You mathematicians may have noticed that the aquarium still needs another $35 million to cover the renos – Expect big funding drives in the years ahead).  Details remain sketchy, but there are plans for a new gallery featuring changing exhibits, as well as lots of behind the scenes work on infrastructure and mechanical systems.

In a speech announcing the project, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said something I thought was pretty telling:  “There is something quite fundamentally decent, something we could even say noble, about what the aquarium does.”    I think that’s true.  Controversies will always rage about the wisdom of keeping wild creatures in zoos and aquariums, but it’s hard to argue with the idea that the aquarium has done an awful lot to raise awareness and appreciation of the abundant sea life off the B.C. coast.

Photo: Remy Scalza

For many people – me included – the ocean that surrounds Vancouver is a beautiful but unknown space.  Stepping into the Treasures of the B.C. Coast exhibit at the aquarium and seeing octopuses, anemones, lingcod, Dungeness crabs and dozens of other creatures up close  makes you recognize the biodiversity beneath the water’s surface – and the need to protect it.  Not to mention the aquarium’s touch pool – where you get to actually feel starfish and other slimy sea dwellers – is pretty cool.

Tickets for this and all other Vancouver attractions are available from our Visitor Center.

What do you think of the aquarium renos?  Any fond memories from VanAq’s storied, 56-year history?

Remy Scalza

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