Aquarium construction begins at zoo

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Darryl Henning
assistant managing editor
A CRANE LIFTS INTO PLACE a piece of Wildlife World Zoo’s new aquarium, which is in Phase I of construction.
Expansion of Wildlife World Zoo to add new aquarium buildings reached another milestone last week when several large acrylic panels and pools were placed into the first of three aquatic exhibit buildings under construction.

Some of the underwater viewing panels are so large they had to be installed before the roof gets constructed. A crane was needed to place some of the panels into position, including one for a future penguin exhibit that weighed more than 7,500 pounds.

The panels, some flat and some curved to form tunnels, were manufactured and shipped from the Reynolds Co. in Colorado.

"A project of this magnitude takes a long time," Wildlife World Zoo Director Mickey Ollson said.

With the arrival of the viewing panels, Ollson estimated that the first two aquarium buildings - phase I of construction - are 50 percent complete.

"Many travelers along Northern Avenue pull over to see the rapid changes taking place including the new zoo and aquarium entrance complex that will open this fall." Ollson said. "A small gift shop and a few aquarium exhibits will be at the entrance. The earliest date for the two aquarium buildings to open is fall 2008 - that's ambitious."

The zoo is using local contractors as well as in-house personnel to do the construction.

Future construction
Phase II construction calls for a third aquarium building, the largest and by far most complex. That building is in final design by a local architectural firm, Deutsch and Associates, and plans call for it to include a full-service restaurant.

Groundbreaking for that building is expected to begin this summer, Ollson said. When all three buildings have been completed, they will total some 32,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Once the third building is in operation, visitors will be able to decide whether to go to the zoo or the aquarium, turning right for the former and left for the latter.

Regardless of their destination, the visitors first will come to a load station for a log flume ride, "which actually will float around some islands and actually go through a building," Ollson explained last year when phase I construction was beginning. "Then you'll be in an acrylic tunnel where you'll actually be floating through a tank that has saltwater fish in it."

And in a subsequent construction phase - years away - plans call for three more buildings for the aquarium, as well as more outdoor exhibits in between the buildings and additional parking.

Wildlife World Zoo has been a popular destination in the West Valley for more than two decades, having welcomed more than 3 million visitors during that time. The animal sanctuary brings together more than 2,400 individual animals representing more than 350 different species.

Wildlife World Zoo is at 16501 W. Northern Ave., one block east of Loop 303. It's open 365 days a year, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For information, call 623-935-9453 or visit online.

Darryl Henning can be reached by e-mail at


This article found at West Valley View. All rights reserved

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