Zoo Capital Projects

At Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, planning is underway for the new Aquarium and renovations to the Rocky Shores and Polar bear exhibits. Each of these projects is made possible by the voters’ approval of a $198 million Metro Parks Tacoma bond issue in 2014, with more than $65 million earmarked for capital improvements at the Zoo.

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Replacement of the Failing North Pacific Aquarium
The Zoo’s 53-year-old North Pacific Aquarium is failing, weakened by decades of salt-water corrosion, and its life support systems are increasingly fragile. The new Pacific Seas Aquarium will continue the longstanding tradition of highlighting Puget Sound marine life while also showcasing some exciting new species.
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Renovation of the Aging Polar Bear Exhibit
The polar bear exhibit will be renovated to meet rising international standards and expanded with the goal of acquiring additional polar bears in the future. Visitors also can expect more up-close viewing experiences.

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Improvements to the Aging Rocky Shores Exhibit
The three decades-old Rocky Shores exhibit was showing signs of deterioration, age and heavy use. Recent renovations to Rocky Shores – home to walruses, sea otters, seals, and puffins – have improved health and safety features for animals and keepers. The project included a new sea lion exhibit, upgrades to animal life-support systems, and expanded animal viewing opportunities.



A collaboration between the Zoo and Tacoma Public Schools' Science and Math Institute (SAMI), the new Environmental Learning Center just north of the Zoo's entrance is now open! It serves SAMI students and staff, as well as Zoo visitors and staff.

The two-story shared-use building, constructed with Tacoma School District bond funds, serves a range of classroom needs from the high school students who attend SAMI to the littlest learners in the Zoo's early education programs. 

See drawings of the building and an animated virtual tour of the exterior.

Project Timelines

Environmental Learning Center - now open

Rocky Shores Exhibit - now open

Pacific Seas Aquarium
Summer 2016: Construction began
Summer 2018: Grand opening

Polar Bear Exhibit Renovation
Design study in process

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