Overall, the Living Planet Aquarium in Salt Lake City has done a good job, as I mentioned in the last post. I just think they needed to focus and do one thing better than anyone else, make it perfect then expand, rather than trying to be everything all at once (ocean, Antarctic, rainforest, and Utah plus a 4-D theater, birthday party venue and more) and just being okay with it all.
I’ve seen this work at the Dallas World Aquarium. It started with just a simple aquarium with large tanks representing the seas and oceans of the world, and a small penguin display in not a very big building. When it came time to expand, it didn’t just throw a bunch of stuff in the mix. Instead it chose on specific story to share and did it spectacularly by adding an amazing recreation of a South American rainforest interpreting the story of the Orinoco River.
The space is expansive and lushly planted with multiple levels to experience the jungle. There is a focal point with waterfall, monkey island and river manatees that can be seen from any level. Monkeys and birds are roaming free through the space and every inch is used to share the story of the river ecosystem.
After many years of this successful space that drew me back time and time again, they added a second rainforest representing the jungles the Mayans once claimed in Mexico. This too was superbly executed and told a story of place with the animals and plants that transports you to an exotic land. Other spaces were also added and help with the overall experience.
I’m not saying Living Planet should have copied DWA, but it should have focused on doing one thing extremely well, then expanding from there. And that one thing they should have focused on at first is the diversity and beauty of its home state of Utah.
This would be following the example put forth by the marvelous Monterey Bay Aquarium telling the story of the bay outside its windows and the stupendous Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, which tells the story of the river from the mountains to the sea. Utah’s massive mountains with lush meadows and pristine forests down to the desert valleys and the Great Salt Lake, then heading south to the red deserts with five National Parks and the mother river of the West provide the perfect story to share.
This would have been spectacular and told a story nobody else is telling. It would offer an opportunity to learn about the magnificent ecosystems of Utah for those who don’t make it out in the mountains themselves.
Rather than trying to do everything and ending up with an okay, but not great experience, they should have focused on one thing, made it spectacular and expanded from there. Then again, this I just my opinion. If only there were market for another aquarium in the Wasatch Front, and I had major donors, I could show you exactly what I mean.
For instance, maybe share the story of the Colorado River, which provides water for millions of people in the Southwest and goes on an impressive journey through seven U.S. states and two countries. It travels through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery including the Rocky Mountains, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, the Grand Canyon and more. Its life affects the way we all live not just in the drinking water districts, but also the produce grown from its irrigation. Maybe if more people were familiar with this sculptor of nature they would better appreciate and more wisely use its precious resource. Just a thought.
Anyway, don’t let my commentary deter you from visiting the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. It has done some great things. I just would have done some differently.