Georgia Aquarium Expansion 2020 Begins Construction

Georgia Aquarium Expansion 2020 Begins Construction

By tarinarn

(Patch Poster) — With today’s groundbreaking, a new visitor entry and state-of-the-art shark habitat, designed by St. Louis-based PGAV Destinations, is now under construction at the western hemisphere’s largest and most exciting aquarium!

Known as Expansion 2020, Georgia Aquarium’s exciting new addition will add tens of thousands of square feet to this popular destination, by extending the main entrance into the plaza and featuring brand new digital signage. The redesigned entryway will provide a comfortable and covered queue area for guests, while also introducing a separate entrance for field trips and classes via Baker Street.

Visitors should know that the regular entrance to the Aquarium is open and will remain uninterrupted throughout the construction process, even though demolition has been underway on the exterior of the building for several months.

“This will be one of our largest exhibits and one of the largest expansions we’ve done in our history,” said Georgia Aquarium president and COO Joe Handy. “We’re thrilled to be offering a grand new entrance that introduces our visitors to the wonder and awe of the Aquarium, and to bring them closer to one of the most important species of the world’s oceans.”

Once inside, guests will be able to explore a massive, beautiful new shark habitat, potentially home to great hammerhead sharks, sand tiger sharks, tiger sharks, and sandbar sharks. The new exhibit will inspire guests to have a deeper appreciation for the important role sharks serve in the oceans, and encourage guests to join conservation efforts around the world to protect our oceans. The stunning saltwater gallery will feature floor-to-ceiling acrylic windows, giving guests expansive and immersive views of these incredible animals. The gallery, for which the name will be released closer to the expansion’s opening, will feature new animal interactions and state-of-the-art digital exhibits, providing a platform for engaging and easily-updated content.

“Sharks are one of the most misunderstood species in the ocean,” says John Kasman, vice president at PGAV Destinations, the St. Louis-based firm serving as lead designer of the expansion. “The goal of the new shark habitat is to provide a fresh perspective on the vital role sharks play in our oceans’ health, and educate guests about the significant threats these animals face from overfishing and habitat loss.”

PGAV first designed America’s largest aquarium in the early 2000s as a grand addition to the City of Atlanta, led by the vision and generosity of Bernard Marcus. The firm has since designed numerous additions to the Aquarium, including SunTrust Pier 225, the Cold Water Quest Gallery, Dolphin Tales, and many more. The Aquarium itself has received two Thea Awards from the Themed Entertainment Association, including Best Aquarium and Outstanding Achievement in Aquariums, as well as several other notable recognitions:

2016: SunTrust Pier 225 – Best Sports/Entertainment Project in the Southeast, Engineering News Record
2014: Georgia Aquarium – Best Aquarium in North America, USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards
2011: Dolphin Expansion – Atlanta Downtown Excellence Award for Outstanding Community Project, Central Atlanta Progress
2010: Dolphin Expansion – Best Cultural Project and Judges Award for Best Overall Project, Southeast Construction Magazine
With more than two million annual visitors, Georgia Aquarium has contributed nearly $2 billion to Georgia’s GDP since it first opened. Opening in the fall of 2020, Expansion 2020 is anticipated to significantly increase both attendance and economic growth. To learn more about Georgia Aquarium’s Expansion 2020, watch this fantastic interview with Georgia Aquarium president and COO Joe Handy.

About PGAV Destinations

PGAV Destinations is a global leader in the planning and design of unique destinations. Now entering its sixth decade, the practice has evolved to become the ideal destination-consulting partner, skilled at developing growth-oriented master plans and translating those plans into successful projects. No other firm offers such an integrated approach to destination planning.

PGAV’s key clients include industry leaders such as Delaware North Companies, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the Biltmore Companies, Bass Pro Shops, Ameristar Casinos, Universal Studios, The Gettysburg Foundation, the Saint Louis Zoo, and many others. Recent assignments include planning and design at many of the world’s “must see” destinations, including the Grand Canyon, Biltmore Estate, Space Shuttle Atlantis, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, the Georgia Aquarium, the Hoover Dam, and SeaWorld Adventure Parks.

About the Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium is a leading 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Atlanta, Ga. that is Humane Certified by American Humane and accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Georgia Aquarium is committed to working on behalf of all marine life through education, preservation, exceptional animal care, and research across the globe. Georgia Aquarium continues its mission each day to inspire, educate, and entertain its millions of guests about the aquatic biodiversity throughout the world through its hundreds of exhibits and tens of thousands of animals across its seven major galleries. For more information, visit

(Reporting by tarinarn for Patch)

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