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Aquarium brings the ocean to town

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Portland Aquarium in Oak Grove brings new life to McLoughlin Boulevard and a former Black Angus building.After sitting in the same spot on McLoughlin Boulevard for a few years, a new life has been brought to the former Black Angus building in the 16000 block.

For the past few months, the Portland Aquarium formerly known as the Oregon Aquarium has been remodeling, gathering publicity and getting the marine life ready for its opening this December.

The date has not been set for the 12,500-square-foot attraction to open, but the community’s excitement keeps growing.

“I think the community is going to embrace us,” said Shane Dietz, the head aquarist on site. “We’re bringing something better to the area instead of a strip club or bar.”

The aquarium’s two-month-old Facebook page has already reached more than 8,000 followers.

“I can’t wait to check out the new aquarium,” posted Jenny Tackett from Troutdale. “It sounds awesome.”

The page has been concentrating its energy on selling annual passes and also giving them away to nominated Facebook users. by: FELICIA SKRIVER - A stingray pool is up and running at the aquarium on McLoughlin Boulevard.The latest winner, Jessica Gary, had more than 100 nominations, winning a season pass, as well as an invitation to the aquarium’s pre-grand opening event.

“We’ve already sold hundreds of passes,” said Steve Blair, director of husbandry and operations. “People are really excited for us to open.”

Passes are being sold for 50 percent off, and if bought now the price to renew the pass in the future would also be 50 percent off. Tickets are also on sale for $8; after the aquarium opens they will sell for $20.

The aquarium’s main attractions include hands-on experiences with the aquarium’s various creatures. It’s meant to be an educational place for kids to feel and feed the sea life that live there.

The marine animals that will be featured will include a shark exhibit, stingray pools, puffins, an octopus exhibit, tidal pools and all sorts of invertebrates. According to Blair, they’re trying to make it as kid friendly and family oriented as possible.

The project has been privately funded and sits in the $1 million range as of now, which is a substantial starting amount for an aquarium of its size. In addition, they will be hiring 30 to 40 people in the next two months.

Blair and other staff are expecting at least 4,000 people to visit the aquarium per year.

“We’re really excited to be here,” said Blair. “I think we’re the first aquarium in the Portland metro area, and so far we’ve had great feedback.”

Blair hopes to boost awareness about our waters, and increase ocean stewardship to those to visit the aquarium. Mostly the goal is to stand out as a good experience for the families that visit.




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