Amazon bubbles up at Oklahoma Aquarium
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
11/14/12 at 7:43 AM
JENKS - Children were quick to crawl under the new "Extreme Amazon" exhibit that was dedicated Tuesday at the Oklahoma Aquarium, but that was the whole idea.
Acrylic pop-up bubbles and tunnels are built into the tank to create an immersed experience with native fish and iguanas from the Amazon River.
"Fun" and "cool" was 2-year-old Dax Scheissel's review of the exhibit.
Tiffany Shoulders, 11, liked it, too.
"You can see all the fish swim through," she said.
The American Electric Power Foundation, through the Public Service Company of Oklahoma, sponsored the exhibit.
Martin Garber, president of the Oklahoma Aquarium Foundation, told supporters that more than 400,000 people visit the aquarium each year, with about a third of those visitors being from out of state, "so this is a large economic draw."
Teri Bowers, executive director of the aquarium, said the exhibit's construction took about 18 months.
Other than the concrete base, the design and construction of the exhibit were done in-house, she said.
"If we had outsourced, it would have cost in excess of $350,000 to a half million, but because we did the work
ourselves, it was closer to $200,000," she said.
American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma granted the aquarium $250,000 to support the Extreme Amazon fresh water exhibit, which was designed by Kenny Alexopoulos, deputy director of the aquarium and a marine biologist by trade, Bowers said.
A portion of the donation is also dedicated to help sustain the future sea turtle exhibit.
Bowers said fundraising for the sea turtle exhibit is ongoing but that officials want to see it open sometime in 2013, which will be the aquarium's 10-year anniversary.
The aquarium's 18-year-old Loggerhead turtle brothers, who live in a tank away from public viewing, each now weigh close to 300 pounds.
The design for the sea turtle exhibit was modified, which increased the cost to $1.8 million from $1.3 million.
Bowers said the aquarium still needs to raise about $500,000 to $600,000.
Enough private funding was raised for the first phase of the exhibit, which was to expand the building.
Now the interior needs to be finished, she said.
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tuesdays until 9 p.m. Open year-round except Christmas Day. The last paid admission is one hour prior to closing.
Where: 300 Aquarium Drive in Jenks (101st Street near Peoria Avenue/Elm Street)
Cost: $13.95 for adults; $11.95 for seniors and military; $9.95 for children ages 3-12; free for children 2 and younger.
For more: 918-296-3474 or tulsaworld.com/aquarium
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
Nine-year-old Caleb Chhim pretends to hold his breath as if he really were under water as he views the Oklahoma Aquarium's new Extreme Amazon exhibit on Tuesday. Bubbles and tunnels for humans are built into the tank to create an immersed experience with native fish and iguanas from the Amazon River. See story on page A16. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Fish - and the exhibit behind them - are seen from an underwater viewing area at the Oklahoma Aquarium's new Extreme Amazon exhibit. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
An iguana shows off its ruffles at the Oklahoma Aquarium's new exhibit Tuesday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World