Metro Parks Tacoma

  • Park Finder
  • Register

Pacific Seas Aquarium and Other Zoo Projects

A new aquarium, Environmental Learning Center and more

Destination Point Defiance LogoAt Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, the Rocky Shores and Polar bear exhibits are getting renovations, and a new Pacific Seas Aquarium is under construction. Each of these projects is made possible by the voters’ approval last year of a $198 million Metro Parks Tacoma bond issue, with more than $65 million earmarked for capital improvements at the Zoo.

Replacement of the Failing North Pacific Aquarium (Completed 2018)
The Zoo’s 52-year-old North Pacific Aquarium is failing, weakened by decades of salt-water corrosion, and its life support systems are increasingly fragile. A new Pacific Seas Aquarium will continue the longstanding tradition of highlighting Puget Sound marine life while also showcasing some exciting new species.

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 the acquiring additional polar bears in the future. Visitors also can expect more up-close viewing experiences.

Improvements to the Aging Rocky Shores Exhibit
The three decades-old Rocky Shores exhibit is showing signs of deterioration, age and heavy use. Renovations to Rocky Shores – home to walruses, sea otters, seals, and puffins – will improve health and safety features for animals and keepers. Upgrades to animal life-support systems and expanded animal viewing opportunities also will be included in the project.

Enironmental Learning Center (Completed 2017)

SAMI-PDZA - Rendering from Bridge

The Zoo also has collaborated with Tacoma Public Schools' Science and Math Institute (SAMI) on an environmental learning center to serve SAMI students and staff, as well as Zoo visitors and staff.

The Environmental Learning Center represents a major step forward for SAMI, a high school that originated in 2009 as part of an effort to increase Tacoma's graduation rate. SAMI uses the park and its buildings as a learning environment. SAMI's graduation rate was 97.03% in 2014; 100% in 2015, and 99% in 2016. The center was finished in fall 2017 and will be used by Tacoma Public Schools, 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. It also replaces portable buildings now used by Zoo education staff and volunteers.

A pedestrian bridge over the roadway provides safe access from indoor classrooms to the outdoor learning spaces of Point Defiance Park, where lessons in the environment come alive.

Learn more, get involved and give input at