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Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium opens new 650,000-gallon aquarium

The much anticipated Sobela Ocean Aquarium at the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium opened to the public on Friday morning. The 650,000-gallon aquarium features six zones with 34 habitats that tell the story of how ocean currents connect animals across the globe.

The aquarium includes nearly 8,000 animals representing more than 200 species, including sea otters, a sea turtle, sharks and a giant Pacific octopus. To help keep all of these animals healthy, more than five miles of pipes are located behind the scenes in a state-of-the-art water filtration system.

Photo: Alan Goforth, Metro Voice

The total cost of the project was $77 million, with $45 million coming from the Zoological District and $32 million from private donations. The Zoological District is made up of Jackson and Clay counties, which approved a one-eighth cent sales tax in 2011 to support the zoo. An additional $10 million in private donations is being raised for an endowment to support the aquarium into the future. JE Dunn Construction served as the general contractor on the project, which was designed by the architectural firms El Dorado and EHDD. Its name, Sobela Ocean Aquarium, was selected by benefactors Barnett and Shirley Helzberg to honor their grandchildren — Sawyer, Oliver, Benton, Elias, Leo, Amelia and Arthur.

“Today has been more than 10 years in the making,” said Sean Putney, executive director and CEO of the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium. “We are excited to bring this new experience to those in Kansas City, as there are people here who have never been and may never go to the ocean. We now have the ability to talk with them and discuss why the oceans are important, how we have a connection to them and, hopefully, encourage them to support aquatic life and the realms in which they live.”

Entry to the aquarium is included with zoo admission and Friends of the Zoo memberships, but a free timed reservation is required to reduce wait times and provide the best experience. Reservations for the aquarium are available online at kansascityzoo.org.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

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