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Visit the dazzling new Pacific Seas Aquarium

Opens Sept. 7 at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

“Salish Nettles,” a dramatic work of art by Seattle artist Kait Rhoads. This is one of many public art installations within the new Pacific Seas Aquarium at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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After more than four years of planning and construction, the dazzling, new 35,000 square-foot Pacific Seas Aquarium at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium will open Friday, Sept. 7, with a program and dedication at 9:30 a.m. The showpiece of the new facility is Baja Bay, a 280,000-gallon tank with hammerhead sharks, sea turtles and spotted eagle rays. Esherick, Homsey, Dodge and Davis (EHDD), famed for their Monterey Bay Aquarium design, was the architectural firm who designed this beautiful new facility.

 "We think everyone who walks through the doors of the Pacific Seas Aquarium will immediately experience what we call the ‘Wow' factor. It's an exciting, wondrous place that provides a journey of discovery through the depths of the ocean where you can see impossibly long-legged spider crabs, mesmerizing jellies, a giant Pacific octopus, a rare and interesting-looking Puget Sound king crab, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and dozens more species of aquatic animals," said Kris Sherman, Communications Associate Manager, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

 "We believe our guests will connect with these animals, perhaps identifying with the graceful movements of the eagle rays, their ‘wings' seemingly flapping as they ‘fly' through the water, or maybe getting nose-to-glass with sea turtles, Sunny and Azul, peering into their expressive eyes. At the Tidal Touch Zone, visitors can literally feel the ocean -- connecting with animals like sea stars, anemones and small crabs by touching the texture of their bodies," she added.

Adding to the wow factor are the beautiful and thought-provoking art installations throughout the aquarium. When you walk into the new building, the first thing that catches your eye is the dramatic "Salish Nettles", artist Kait Rhoads' sculpture of three giant glass jellyfish. She worked with the Museum of Glass hot shop crew and mentored the teen glassblowers of Hilltop Artists as part of the project.

A key component of the Pacific Seas Aquarium is education on how to help protect the ocean environment and the animals that live there. The Waves of Change Gallery gives examples of simple easy things to do that can make a big difference to the environment. Simply saying "No straw, please", when eating out can help reduce plastic ocean pollution. Visitors will have the opportunity to use a kiosk to pledge to do an environmentally friendly action like foregoing a straw. They can then take their photo and it will appear on a wall in the gallery. 

 "The Pacific Seas Aquarium is unlike any experience in the Northwest -- it's an amazing journey -- and we hope each of our guests will leave thinking not only about all of the ‘wow' they saw but also about actions they can individually take to help our ocean and the animals that live here," said Sherman.

Visitors to the Pacific Seas Aquarium are encouraged to make return visits throughout the year. The building is complete but there is much more to come through the end of the year. More animals will be added as well as finishing touches to the exhibits.

Pacific Seas Aquarium Grand Opening, 9:30 a.m., Friday, Sept. 7, included in price of admission to zoo, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, 253.404.3800,

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