Photos by Ariana Gastelum.
More than 200 people gathered this morning to see the groundbreaking ceremony of Pacific Visions, the Aquarium of the Pacific’s first major expansion, where the board of directors, city council members and generous donors all participated in burying shovels into the ground in the public lawn outside of the main entrance.
Speakers included President and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Schubel, Chairman of the Board John Molina, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Corporate Relations of American Honda Motor Company Teresa Phillips, Senior Vice President of Clark Construction Steve Dell’Orto, Founder of Cortina Productions Joe Cortina and 2nd District Council Member of Long Beach Jeannine Pearce.
“[Pacific Visions] is designed to take advantage of the special qualities of Long Beach,” Schubel told the Post. “Having a major port in this city, being in the heart of the urban ocean […]. It’s figuring out ways, so humans can live in harmony in the environment. There’s no better place in the world to do that than here.”
When Schubel concluded the speeches, he announced that, out of six aquariums included in a 2016 customer survey, the Aquarium of the Pacific was ranked number one in having the best value, educational experience and entertainment experience, according to Morey Group, a market-research company.
San Francisco-based architecture and design firm Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis design will add 29,000 square feet of contemporary interpretive pieces, exhibit galleries and an immersive theatre in a biomorphic structure. The $53 million project is the second and final phase of the Campus Master Plan adopted in 2005.
It is expected to be open in late 2018 or early 2019. When completed, Pacific Visions will increase the institution’s audience capacity to approximately two-million visitors per year.
Several of the speakers also noted that the Aquarium of the Pacific provides more than just an enjoyable place to spend the day. It is a community-gathering place for people to learn about the important challenges that face the planet. Those who attended also gained one of the last glances at the mural painted by Portuguese artist Pantónio during summer’s Pow! Wow! Long Beach street art festival.
“The Aquarium of the Pacific is not only a great tourist attraction, which we all know it to be,” Garcia said during his speech. “It’s also a place where research is happening. It’s also a place where academics from across the country are coming to have conversations. It’s a place where issues around climate change and sea-level rise are being discussed on a regular basis.”