The talk of the town today is the grand opening of the new Toledo Zoo Aquarium, and the Northwest Ohio Building and Construction Trades played a key role in making it a success.
On March 27, after being closed for nearly two and a half years for a $25.5 million renovation, the Toledo Zoo opened their aquarium to the public.
Hundreds of anxious onlookers gathered at the aquarium and helped to christen the new, stunning exhibits that combine to house more than 3,000 aquatic animals in roughly 178,000 gallons of water. Counted among the crowd were members of the local construction trades, who helped to make this breathtaking vision a reality.
Still housed in the structure where construction started in 1936 by the Publics Work Administration and officially opened to the general public in 1939, local union members helped turn a small and cramped group of exhibits into one of the premier zoo-aquarium tandems in the country. According to the Toledo Blade, the Toledo Zoo is one of only 10 zoos to operate both a zoo and on-ground aquarium.
Although the interior size and exterior of the building remained mostly the same, one of the most easily recognized change was to move the entrance back to its original location in the middle of the building.
Inside, the change is quite noticeable. According to the zoo’s website, the largest size exhibit prior to the renovation was 7,600 gallons. Today, the largest tank holds about 90,000 gallons and contains a two-story viewing window. The Reef, as it is called, is the focal point of the entire museum and allows for visitors to interact with divers who will feed the fish at scheduled times during the day.
Other tanks will focus on areas such as the Gulf of Mexico, flooded forest, kelp forest, the deep seas, and Lake Erie islands and Ohio waterways.
Old favorites such as moon jellies, flashlight fish, sea stars, giant Pacific octopi, alligator snapping turtles, and electric eels return to their former home.
There are special tanks where the public can interact with the aquatic life. Members of the construction trades helped install specially designed filtration systems to clean the ecosystem of oils, dirt, and other contaminants that will be introduced during the interactive experience.
About 80 percent of funding for the renovation came from proceeds of the 2006 Lucas County tax levy, with the other 20 percent procured through private donations, according to Jeff Sailer, the zoo’s executive director.