Construction on the exterior of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s massive $53-million expansion, dubbed the Pacific Visions wing, was finished Wednesday after the final panel was placed on the outside of its blue whale-inspired design.

The 29,000-square-foot, two-story, project was unveiled over two years ago after San Francisco-based firm EHDD revealed its design for the Aquarium’s first expansion since opening in 1998.

Crews install the last piece of glass on the exterior of the Aquarium of the Pacific's $53-million expansion. Photo courtesy Aquarium of the Pacific.
Crews install the last piece of glass on the exterior of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s $53-million expansion. Photo courtesy Aquarium of the Pacific.

Originally slated to open this year, the project has been pushed back to an opening date of spring 2019, when visitors will finally be able to experience the highlight of the project,  the Honda Pacific Visions Theater. Viewers will be submerged into a virtual ocean environment thanks to a massive, 180-degree curved screen that measures some 130-foot-wide by 32-foot-tall screen. At the floor, a 30-foot-diameter projection disc will help “move” the audience in and through simulated aquatic scenery.

Aquarium’s New Pacific Visions Wing Closer to Completion with Topping-Off Ceremony

That scenery will be courtesy of the work currently being headed by Cortina productions, which specializes in immersive, 4-D film and theater experiences at venues across the nation. Highlights have included the “Festival Experience” at The Museum at Bethel Wood dedicated to the history of the famed Woodstock festival, as well as the award-winning “Blue Planet Theater” at the Gwinnett County Environmental & Heritage Center in Atlanta.

In addition to the theater, the expansion will also include—of course—fish and other animals for visitors to view thanks to 6,000-square-feet of new exhibition space.

“Pacific Visions represents an unprecedented opportunity to help our growing audience examine the vital and changing relationship between humans and the World Ocean and choose paths to make that relationship sustainable,” stated Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific president & CEO. “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.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Oct. 18. It was originally published on Sept. 11, 2018.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.