Shedd Aquarium Oceanarium set to re-open
This morning, the Shedd Aquarium opened the Oceanarium, still under construction, for a hard-hat press viewing. The scene was majestic: The enormous empty basin was surrounded by faux cliffs, and was lit with natural sunlight streaming in from a glass wall, with an icy lake on the other side.
But enough with the ambiance. You really want to know when the darn thing will be filled with water again so you can get your white-sided dolphin fix after six months of withdrawal. And that happy date is May 22. If you go to Shedd's website now through May 21, you can find $4 off admission.
What will you get with the $50 million rehab? Loads. Most importantly they patched the leaky pool and overhauled the control systems for animal safety and utilized enough energy conservation tactics to make Al Gore drool.
The Shedd also gave the dolphin show, the aquarium's highlight, a new, clubby feel. The sketches show lights beaming down from above as the glass windows are covered by a curtain projected with high-def video footage. Also the show no longer solely features leaping dolphins—four additional species will be added to the mix. Other exhibits stuffed into the area include a beluga encounter habitat (where up to three families can walk extremely close to the whales), a sea lion habitat, a kids exhibit that boasts a nifty submarine, and a river that runs through the faux rocks and ends in a fish-filled pool.
Finally, my favorite add-ons: The Shedd is better serving its two million annual visitors with another elevator, easily-accessable restrooms (thank god), lockers, a concierge, an outdoor terrace and more food service. If the place was stuffed to the gills (rimshot!) before the renovation, the often uncomfortably-full aquarium will now get a little breathing room. Or, so I hope. The Shedd saw attendance figures more than double when the Oceanarium opened in 1991. But even with the Oceanarium closed, last Sunday the museum was filled to maximum capacity.