Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM), owner of St. Louis Union Station, has announced that St. Louis-based PGAV Destinations will design the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, the next phase of development at the National Historic Landmark train station in downtown St. Louis.
The highly anticipated project is currently in the design phase. Construction is expected to begin in fall 2017 with an anticipated completion in summer 2019. The aquarium’s professional operator will be announced at a later date.
“We’re very excited to have one of the top design firms in the country working with us on this project,” said Bob O’Loughlin, chairman and CEO of Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM). “And the fact that PGAV Destinations is a St. Louis company means that they can appreciate the value of Union Station and its history and importance to the community.”The reception both locally and nationally to the first phase of our project has been tremendous and we know the opening of the St. Louis Observation Wheel in spring 2019 and the Train Park and St. Louis Aquarium will make Union Station a true destination hotel and entertainment complex,” said O’Loughlin.
The 65,000-square-foot St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station will be located in the former mall area within St. Louis Union Station. The $45 million attraction will feature one-of-a-kind exhibits and tanks with 700,000 gallons of water housing thousands of aquatic species from the rivers and oceans of the world.
PGAV Destinations, located in downtown St. Louis, has been involved in the design of exhibits at many of the nation’s top aquatic attractions, including the Georgia Aquarium, South Carolina Aquarium, Discovery Cove and Sea World. The company – which specializes in designing attractions, exhibits and experiences that enrich lives and create memories for guests – also has designed environments at the Saint Louis Zoo, including Polar Bear Pointe, Sea Lion Sound, Penguin & Puffin Coast, the new Grizzly Ridge opening this fall and a variety of other popular visitor experiences.
“We like to think outside the box, dream big and bring our clients’ hopes and dreams into reality,” said PGAV Destinations’ lead aquarium designer Emily Howard, vice president. “The aquarium will be something unique to our city and Union Station’s spectacular architecture and environment will make this project even more special.”
The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station will be an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) which holds members to the highest standards in animal care and exhibition. The facility will employ an animal husbandry team of marine biologists and aquarists responsible for the long-term care of the animals in the exhibit as well as overseeing water chemistry, animal nutrition, veterinary care, education, staffing and safety. The attraction will be open 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. One million visitors are expected annually.
School groups will experience an exceptional educational experience and the aquarium will be a major entertainment destination for local and out-of-town visitors. An 8,500-square-foot private event space will feature the attraction’s tanks as a backdrop for weddings, social events and corporate parties.
The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station will be part of a $100 million family entertainment complex planned for St. Louis Union Station. Other components will include the previously announced St Louis Wheel – a 200-foot-high observation wheel with 30 fully enclosed, climate-controlled and ADA-compliant gondolas that seat up to six adults each. Wheel passengers will take three to four rotations high over the St. Louis skyline during the 10-to-12-minute ride. Located on the south side of the historic train shed, the wheel also will include one VIP experience gondola with a glass floor, no line wait time and an extended ride. The St. Louis Wheel will be a new iconic attraction on the St. Louis skyline and will be operational every day of the year, accommodating an estimated 500,000 visitors annually.
Other phases of the entertainment complex at St. Louis Union Station are underway in an area beneath the historic train shed that will be known as The Train Park. The Train Park will feature food and beverage concessions served out of train cars and shipping containers, the Fire & Light Show at the Lake, the St. Louis Wheel, the Hard Rock Café and Landry’s restaurants, and new retail and family attractions. The first phase of development – the Fire & Light Show at the Lake – opened in November 2016. The show emanates from nine fire pods submerged in the watery pool. Tube lights, hung from trees in the Train Park, and a light show projected onto the ceiling panels of the train shed above the lake, create a display synchronized to music on view every hour on the hour throughout each evening.
A new boardwalk has been added around the train shed lake allowing guests to
stroll completely around the water and connect to both the Hard Rock Café and Landry’s restaurants. A cantilevered net lounge will be installed between the restaurants where guests can relax in a hammock-style lounge that hovers above the lake to view the Fire & Light Show. The Train Park and Fire & Light Show are being created by Groundswell Design of Philadelphia.
Enhancements also are continuing at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel which is adding 28 new hotel rooms beneath the clock tower section on the Market Street side of the building’s northeast corner. Construction on the rooms began in January 2017 with completion planned by winter 2017. The hotel currently offers 539 rooms and will increase to 567 rooms when the $6 million project is completed. The hotel also will add 15,636 square feet of new meeting space by expanding the Midway east to 18th Street. Six new breakout rooms ranging from 1,600 to 2,835 square feet will be added along with another 8,700 square feet of flexible event space created with one of the aquarium’s tanks as a backdrop at the cost of $3.5 million. Construction on the meeting space began in January 2017 with completion planned by July 2017.