St. Louis is known for its many family-friendly attractions, including the Zoo, the City Museum, the Art Museum, and more. However, St. Louis is one of the only big cities in the U.S. today without an aquarium.
Lodging Hospitality Management, a St. Louis company, bought Union Station in 2011. They had several ideas for what to do with this historical landmark, including creating a mixed-use facility.
However, after years of planning and design, they decided to create an aquarium.
Cameron Schoeffel, Director of Sales and Entertainment at St. Louis Aquarium and Train Park explained, “The Union Station opened its doors in 1894, so it is a national historical landmark as well. To be able to have a building with that kind of history is special, and to create a state-of-the-art aquarium and an attraction destination inside of it is just something that was a natural fit.”
The entrance to the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station
The St. Louis Aquarium At Union Station, which has been under construction since spring of 2018, is scheduled to open mid-December this year.
“It is actually really coming together here in the next few months and it will be our little gift to St. Louis during Christmas time,” Schoeffel said.
The St. Louis Aquarium will have over 13,000 animals, including over 30 species of sharks, rays, and all sorts of other sea life.
One of the highlights of the aquarium will be the Shark Canyon exhibit, which will be the largest attraction. It will include a 250,000-gallon shark tank, which will house over 30 sharks and rays.
Some of the other exhibits will highlight the species that live in the global rivers, by the ocean shores, and down in the ocean deep.
While many animals from global rivers will be on display, the aquarium will also feature galleries that highlight species that live right here at home, in the Mississippi and Missouri water systems.
That was a big piece of the whole project, increasing awareness for animals right here in our backyard. That is obviously something we are very keen on, and we want to make sure that people understand and know about the conservation efforts that go on here in St. Louis. It’s just a nice way to tie it all in”
— Cameron Schoeffel
“That was a big piece of the whole project, increasing awareness for animals right here in our backyard. That is obviously something we are very keen on, and we want to make sure that people understand and know about the conservation efforts that go on here in St. Louis. It’s just a nice way to tie it all in,” Schoeffel said.
One very special guest has already been acquired by the aquarium: a blue lobster.
Only one in every 2 million lobsters has the genetic mutation that creates a blue shade, making this creature very rare. The lobster was donated to the aquarium right after the Blues’ victory over the Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The lobster, which has been named Lord Stanley by St. Louis’ Blues fans, is the first full-time resident of the aquarium.
The aquarium will be a touristic destination as it will also have other great attractions nearby. This includes a 200-foot ferris wheel named “The St. Louis Wheel”, which will have 42 climate-controlled gondolas that will run all year long.
There will also be several new restaurants, including the 1894 Café and The Soda Fountain. Inside the aquarium, there will be a mirror-maze and a ropes course as well, which can be used in rain or shine.
While the aquarium will have an admission price, there is also a non-for-profit aquarium foundation. The goal of the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation is to bring 25,000 undeserved kids to St. Louis to the aquarium for free.
“To go along with that, the conservation and education center will be a free entry within our space so that’ll feature different attractions, activities, a few live exhibits with animals in it, and a great opportunity to get educated on water stewardship and just ways that we can increase awareness to ultimately clean up our watersheds,” Schoeffel said.
All these great new things will attract many visitors and make downtown St. Louis even more lively than before.
Schoeffel said, “Ultimately, this project is more about bringing some awareness to downtown, and creating that buzz and attraction destination right here in our own city.”