Planning for the new Ocean Pavilion

Broadening our reach

Since 1977, the Seattle Aquarium has been a key institution on Seattle’s central waterfront, engaging and educating visitors about the wonders of the Salish Sea and our one world ocean. With the Aquarium’s 2010 transition from the City of Seattle’s Department of Parks and Recreation to nonprofit management and operation, we had the opportunity to create a new vision. Our Strategic Plan 2011–2030 calls for dramatically increasing the reach of our mission: Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment. The strategic plan recognizes the need for facility investments and upgrades, as well as broadened education programs that reach diverse audiences around our growing region.

In 2014, to meet the strategic plan goals, the Seattle Aquarium began work on a larger Core Plan for Expansion. The process began as an integral part of the waterfront redevelopment project, with the Aquarium working closely with the City of Seattle Office of the Waterfront and the Department of Parks and Recreation. The planned expansion includes a new building, the Ocean Pavilion; a west-end renovation of Pier 59; a renovation and expansion of Pier 60; and seamless connections to a greatly improved public waterfront. In 2015, the Seattle City Council approved our core plan.

Illustrated map of the Seattle Aquarium campus including the future Ocean Pavilion building, pier 59, pier 60, and the Aquarium offices

Engaging the community

The planning and development of the Ocean Pavilion included extensive outreach to stakeholders and members of the public interested in the Aquarium’s expansion planning. The Seattle Aquarium has been committed to an open and transparent process around its expansion and welcomes community voices. Our board meetings have always been open to the public and allow for public comment.

Funding the project

The Aquarium’s $160-million comprehensive One Ocean, One Future Campaign is targeting a combination of private philanthropy and government sources. The City of Seattle has contributed $34 million to the project, which will be a City-owned building. In August 2022, the City advanced $20 million in interim financing that will be paid back to the City with interest. This interim funding helped address a short-term timing issue and ensure that Ocean Pavilion construction proceeds in a cost-effective manner and in alignment with the Main Corridor and Overlook Walk projects. Private and public funding efforts continue as we make steady progress toward our campaign goal.

Building the Ocean Pavilion

Construction of the Ocean Pavilion began in December 2020, and the building is scheduled to open in 2024. Construction takes place in four phases. Afterwards, the building will undergo final preparations to ensure that it is ready to welcome animal residents. 

Phase 1: Preparing the site (completed)

  • Suquamish Tribe land blessing conducted at the site of the future Ocean Pavilion.
  • Site preparation began, including excavation of half of the site, deep soil mixing and adding piping for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
  • East and north exterior walls built.

Phase 2: Building a foundation (completed)

  • Site preparation continued, including excavation of the other half of the site, ongoing deep soil mixing and completing piping for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
  • Construction of the building’s lowest levels and foundation continued.

Phase 3: Creating the form (in progress)

  • Ocean Pavilion shell, core and roof constructed.
  • Formwork for habitats completed.
  • Large windows installed.
  • Mechanical, electrical, plumbing and animal life support systems installed.
  • Second-floor beams installed.

Phase 4: Completing the interior and rooftop park (coming up)

  • Habitat work completed.
  • Public rooftop constructed.
  • Public elevator and stairs constructed.
  • Interior spaces for animal care, education and staff finished.
  • Mechanical, electrical, plumbing and animal life support systems installed (continued).

Commissioning process
During and following construction, the building will go through a commissioning process. This step includes preparing habitats and systems for animal residents and staff before the building’s opening.

Looking ahead

The next phase of the Aquarium’s revitalization will focus on its existing buildings and these upcoming milestones:

  • Create a new west end of Pier 59 that reveals stunning views of Puget Sound, expanding our Salish Sea education and conservation programs.
  • Transform Pier 60 into a living habitat for Puget Sound and Washington coast animals, shorebirds and fish.

Artists depiction of a future campus for the Seattle Aquarium along the waterfront park in Seattle showing people outside Aquarium buildings looking towards Elliot Bay during sunset.

Sharing Feedback

If you have questions regarding the Ocean Pavilion, please contact us at

Additional background:

Final Environmental Impact Statement (November 2018)
Draft Environmental Impact Statement (August 2018)
Environmental Impact Statement Scoping Summary Report (June 2018)
Plan approved by City Council (August 2015)

Ocean Pavilion Public Engagement Timeline: 2014–2021