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Shedd Aquarium’s $500 million redesign underway in Chicago | Illinois


(The Center Square) – A new underwater experience is in the works at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Compassion, curiosity and conservation are the three Cs that President and CEO Dr. Bridget Coughlin said mark the mission of the world-famous Shedd Aquarium.

Earlier this month, Coughlin unveiled a $500 million redesign plan for the Chicago landmark, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2030.

New galleries being installed over the next four years will give visitors vibrant and realistic

underwater experiences of lakes, rivers, oceans and the animals that live in those waterways.

In the new Amazon gallery, visitors will be eye to eye with a gigantic arapaima fish and hear the pop it makes as it suctions up its prey. Nearby, visitors will be able to test the electricity of their own heartbeats and compare it with the electricity in an electric eel.

A new Caribbean tunnel gallery will simulate a deepwater dive, complete with an overhead pass by a massive eagle stingray.

The gallery redesign will be completed in four phases. The aquarium will stay open as the new galleries are being constructed, Coughlin said.

“We are always open,” she said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the Shedd a world treasure that holds a unique place in his heart. He proposed to his wife M.K. at the Shedd in 1992.

The aquarium is a huge tourist magnet for Chicago, drawing 2 million visitors a year. One million visitors come from out of state, providing an annual economic impact of $410 million for the city, Coughlin said.

Thousands of Chicago Public School students visit the aquarium and participate in Shedd

sponsored learning programs every year, said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson.

More than half of the $500 million Centenary Fund will be used to expand the aquarium’s

educational and conservation programming. The new facilities will allow the aquarium to

increase the annual number of student visitors from 170,000 to 230,000 students, Coughlin said.

Inside the main entrance, visitors will see a ceiling installation of 16,000 schooling porcelain walleye, sturgeon and bluegill that will hang over the central staircase.

Classrooms that are now on the basement level of the facility will take center stage upstairs in a redesigned sunlit lakefront learning center. Under the Shedd’s historic rotunda, two massively high twin habitats will showcase and contrast freshwater and saltwater environments. Other exhibits will include a Changing Oceans gallery, a Kelp Forest and a Whalefall.

The Shedd is home to thousands of aquatic animals, around 1,100 species. Its aquatic research and scientific investigations address threats to biodiversity and species extinction.

Two thousand jobs will be created during the redesign. Fifty percent of total labor work hours will go to Chicago residents. At least 26% of subcontracting packages will go to minority and women-owned businesses.

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Caleb Alexander

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