[Note to readers: Please watch the website and social media channels for our most up-to-date announcements regarding the South Building renovations.]
With the closure of the South Building for renovation and the new construction happening around the footprint to make way for the new Veterinary Wing, it's an exciting time for the Virginia Aquarium. But the question we most often get is: what about the otters?
Don't worry, your favorite North American river otter friends are still doing great! Tippy, Homer, and Sheldon have comfortably settled into their new normal which, in all honesty, is not that different from their old normal. They still have access to the exhibit area but spend most of their time behind the scenes relaxing. While it's unlikely that you'll find them exploring the exhibit during the day, they are still receiving the highest level of care daily.
So what's happening around the building?
Well, after we moved all of the animals and people out (with several of the animals making a reappearance in the Main Building in newly constructed exhibit areas -- like the dart frog exhibit next to the Coastal River aquarium or the seahorses by the octopus exhibit), we handed over the keys to the contractors and they began their work. First up was the fence. Next up was site clearing. The area south of the building, where the new Veterinary Wing will go, needed to be cleared to create the outline for the building expansion. Now, we're working on demolition inside the footprint of the building. The team is 90% complete with the interior demo, and we're moving right along!
Soon, work will begin inside the building, making way for the new exhibits! What should you expect when this new space opens? I'M GLAD YOU ASKED!
- Explore the Jelly Gallery supported by The Dreyfus Family Foundation featuring dramatic displays of live jellies from around the world.
- Investigate the unique adaptations of marine creatures in the Undersea Super Powers Gallery supported by Joan and Macon Brock, which will feature a giant Pacific octopus aquarium and a surge and touch pool exhibit supported by Marguerite Dickerson in memory of Courtney Beth Dickerson.
- Take your toddler to a new Toddler Play Area supported by John O. and Susan Wynne, featuring favorite age-appropriate activities themed around the ocean, science, and nature.
- Watch the otters frolicking in their pool while enjoying lunch or a snack in a new Café.
- Go outside to explore the Watershed Exhibit supported by Jane P. Batten, a hands-on area with water experiments, pollution solution activities, and marine scientist role play and to play in the Otter Den, where you can try the otter slide and climb into a den to peek inside the otter habitat.
- We'll even have a new flexible-use outdoor Amphitheater supported by Roy E. Hendrix!
In addition, we are adding a new Veterinary Care Center connected to the South Building that will house the staff and facilities needed to care for our animals. You'll get a glimpse into our behind-the-scenes work here in the Windows into Animal Care Gallery. In this gallery, observe vet staff examining animals in a treatment room, watch our chemists at work in the water quality lab, and see some of the animals that we raise as part of conservation research projects. For our young guests, there will be a space to role play as a wildlife vet and a field biologist in the Animal Discovery area supported by the Goode Family Foundation.