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Aquarium’s Ocean Journey building “tops out”
Peaks appear & one more milestone met for April 29 opening

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (June 16, 2004) – The Chattanooga skyline that features the familiar four peaks of the Tennessee Aquarium was transformed with the addition of two new steel peaks emerging from the Aquarium’s saltwater building on Market Street.

The Aquarium celebrated the “topping out” of its $30 million expansion that will add 650,000 gallons of saltwater to what is currently the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. In addition, the grand opening date of April 29 and the new building names were announced: River Journey and Ocean Journey.

River Journey is the Aquarium’s freshwater experience. Visitors follow the path of a raindrop high in the Appalachian Forest, through the Tennessee River system and all the way to the Mississippi Delta. Visitors also encounter freshwater animals and habitats from around the world.

Designed to enhance the original experience, Ocean Journey is the Aquarium’s new saltwater experience. The centerpiece of the building is the Gulf of Mexico exhibit and represents the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, a unique coral reef system in the Gulf of Mexico, where coral formations unlike any others in the world occur. Seen from various vantage points on several levels, the Gulf tank will be surrounded by galleries that will feature unusual saltwater creatures from around the world.

“The Ocean Journey building will deliver exactly what our visitors asked for – more hands-on experiences and more saltwater animals,” said Charlie Arant, Aquarium president. “Watching the building take shape next door to our original building on the banks of the Tennessee River has been amazing. But seeing steel peaks emerge makes the April 29 opening feel closer than ever.”

Ocean Journey will be home to 10-foot sharks, fierce barracuda and colorful reef fish gliding through amazing coral formations.

“Visitors will feel as if they’re diving in a coral reef teeming with fascinating sea life – especially when they enter the Coral Grotto,” Arant said. “We’ve got baby sharks growing in the quarantine room and the large sharks are to be collected,” Arant added. “Plus a whole range of fascinating saltwater creatures will be arriving over the following months.”

Ocean Journey’s Gulf tank will be surrounded by smaller galleries that will feature unusual creatures like cuttlefish, squid, jellyfish and a giant spider crab.

Visitors begin their tour by traveling up an escalator to the top of the building, where they’ll be enveloped by natural light streaming in through a glass curtain that showcases the natural beauty of the Tennessee River and the mountains beyond. Under the 30-foot-high sunlit peaks is an area that richly engages all the senses with many levels of discovery.

Ocean Journey’s top level will feature a tropical shoreline where visitors can get up close and even hands-on with live animals like stingrays and bamboo sharks. Other tropical creatures like colorful macaws and freshwater stingrays also will intrigue visitors who enter this lush tropical paradise.

The Aquarium expansion is a key element of the 21st Century Waterfront Plan, a 129-acre vision that evolved out of a broad-based civic planning process that capitalizes on our greatest natural resource, the Tennessee River.

Ocean Journey at a Glance

  • Size: 60,000 square feet and holds 650,000 gallons of water; largest tank is 500,000 gallons
    (The original building, River Journey, is 130,000 square feet, and holds 400,000 gallons of water.)
  • Cost: $30 million – Funded by a $10 million Aquarium bond issue and $20 million raised through combined efforts with the 21st Century Waterfront fundraising campaign.
  • Construction Manager: Turner Universal Construction Company. Turner Universal constructed the original Aquarium, which won the 1992 AGC Build America Award.
  • Architect: Chermayeff, Sollogub & Poole, Inc. of Boston, Mass. The three principle architects also designed the original Aquarium building.
  • Grand opening: April 29, 2005

What’s in the building so far?

  • 30 cast-acrylic underwater viewing panels
  • 22,000 square feet of epoxy-laminate waterproofing on the tank
  • 40,000 man-hours of labor in the Gulf tank alone
  • Contains over 1,500 tons of reinforcing steel
  • Contains 6,500 cubic yards of concrete
  • Building weighs over 20,000 tons when filled with water


The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $14 per adult and $7.50 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.75 per adult and $5.25 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $18 for adults and $10.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

For an electronic version of this release and downloadable images:

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