The Aquarium of the Pacific announced its first major expansion project Wednesday: a 29,000 square-foot, two-story wing that will house a massive theater and space for special exhibitions, art galleries and live animal exhibits.
Called "Pacific Visions," the new wing will be a "biomorphic structure that suggests the form of a whale and evokes the size, depth, variability, luminosity, and biological diversity of the Pacific Ocean," according to a released statement.
The $53 million expansion is scheduled to open in late 2018, with the expectation that it will boost annual attendance to roughly 2 million visitors per year.
“We want our visitors to leave Pacific Visions feeling more deeply engaged with the living ocean, knowledgeable about the challenges that face it and us, and empowered to make better decisions and share their new understanding with others," said Dr. Jerry R. Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific president and CEO, in the released statement.
Schubel said the vision for the wing has visitors entering into art gallery, then flowing into an orientation gallery and eventually into an immersive and interactive 300-seat theater.
"The people will be asked to make choices, and they will then be able to see the consequences of their choices displayed on the screen in terms of what it would mean to the extinction of marine life," Schubel told KPCC. "And if they don't like the outcome, they can be asked to make different choices, and they'll be able to see how different the future could be."
After the theater presentation, Schubel said visitors will get to see a "culmination gallery" which utilizes live animal exhibits and technology to drive home the messages seen in the theater.
"We're hoping that people will look at the live animals there, and throughout the rest of the aquarium, in ways they never have before and realize we're all in this together," he said.