Closing the North Pacific Aquarium

We are closing the 55-year-old North Pacific Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in preparation for the opening of the new Pacific Seas Aquarium this summer.

More than five decades of saltwater have caused deterioration, corrosion and concrete “spalling” in some portions of the building. Although it remains structurally sound, the building is at the end of its useful life as a saltwater aquarium.

The North Pacific Aquarium will close to the public forever – in its current use – at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 30. The South Pacific Aquarium – home to sharks, Stingray Cove and a tropical lagoon – will remain open.

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NPA upperCome Celebrate!

Come celebrate the Last 30 Days of the NPA with us this month – and bring your memories. Show your kids the sunken boat. Reminisce about the first time you gazed through those windows. And did you meet Dub Dub the seal?

On the last weekend (March 24-25) you’ll be able to write those aquarium memories on our bubble-note Memory Wall upstairs before you visit animal friends below.

marine discovery-001Stare down a rockfish, marvel at a sea star, ogle the jellies.

The Marine Discovery Center will also close March 30 – come and touch our urchins and sea stars one last time before they move to the Pacific Seas Aquarium.

Sharks and Stingrays

But don’t worry. The South Pacific Aquarium – home to 16 sharks, stingrays and tropical fish – will stay open..

NPA historicBuilding an Aquarium

The North Pacific Aquarium was built to replace the aging 1940 aquarium, a wooden building down on the waterfront that was rusting, rotting and leaking. Early ideas included moving it to the park’s “bus station” (now the Pagoda), but by 1961 the Park Board decided to build a new one inside the zoo complex, where the maintenance shops were.

After five years of planning and building, the aquarium opened on June 23, 1963. It cost only $325,000, partly paid for by a federal grant that also covered other improvements in the park. 
To sustain it, the Zoo started charging admission: 50 cents for adults, 10 cents for children, with preschoolers free. Seal and penguin exhibits were built just outside – providing a new home for the ever-popular Dub Dub the seal - and the whole thing was fed with water directly from Puget Sound. 

A Big Success

The NPA has remained a huge draw for Zoo visitors, who can see up close the stunning diversity of marine life that exists just steps away in Puget Sound.
After the NPA closes, it will serve as a temporary home for the animals that will live in the new Pacific Seas Aquarium. Then we’ll drain it and make the building ready for future short-term and long-term use.  The Zoo’s Capital Facilities Master Plan envisions the building’s transformation into a South America Exhibit, but there is currently no funding or timeline for that project. 

turtleThe Pacific Seas Aquarium

The 35,000-square-foot Pacific Seas Aquarium, to open this summer, will feature animals from the North Pacific; its Northwest Waters exhibit will showcase species in our own Puget Sound backyard. Plus, exciting new animals like green sea turtles, scalloped hammerhead sharks and spotted eagle rays will have homes in the stunning 275,000-gallon Baja Bay habitat. Construction of the new aquarium was made possible by a Metro Parks Tacoma bond issue approved by Tacoma voters in 2014.

1963 – Step Back in Time…

President: John F. Kennedy
In the news: Civil rights movement, New York skyscrapers, talk about humans on the moon
Music: Beatle-mania swept the U.S.A.; the Rolling Stones released their first single
Gallon of gas: 30 cents
Loaf of bread: 22 cents
A house near Point Defiance Park: $22,500
Average wage: $84/week

Upload your memories!

Have a favorite photo memory of the North Pacific Aquarium?

We'd love to see it - and share it. We're particularly looking for historic photos: pre-2000.

Upload your historic photo here and we may include it in a slideshow screening by the Memory Wall inside the NPA on closing weekend, March 24-25.