When the Toledo Zoo Aquarium opened in 1939, it was the world’s largest freshwater aquarium, housed in a Works Progress Administration (WPA) building. The Aquarium had never undergone a significant renovation, and by the early 2000s, the building was deteriorating.

Planning the new aquarium took several years. The Zoo considered new construction as well as renovations, ultimately deciding to preserve the elegant historic building it had.

Rudolph Libbe Inc. served as construction manager for the project, which preserved the 75-year-old building’s exterior and created a 21st century aquarium with the latest technology inside, while staying within the 30,000-square-foot building footprint. Building Information Modeling (BIM) ensured that modern life support systems, piping and building systems fit within the existing structure.

Other project highlights include:

  • A temporary aquarium for the animals.
  • A complex, engineered shoring system filled nearly half of the building while new walls and tanks were constructed.
  • Extensive demolition on a tight schedule, using a Brokk 180 remote-controlled demolition robot in some areas.
  • Restoration of 7,000 square feet of exterior facade, including masonry, windows, roofing and doors.
  • A site-specific safety and logistics plan that resulted in the completion of 114,600 hours of on-site labor with zero recordables and zero lost-time incidents.
  • Mechanical and life support systems with 19,433 feet (3.7 miles) of pipe, carrying 15,516 gallons of water.

The remodel expanded exhibit and visitor viewing space and nearly quadrupled water volume from 46,000 to 170,000 gallons of water. The aquarium now boasts 32 exhibits with 200 species.

It’s a real public aquarium now, not a small zoo aquarium like it was. An aquarium fits in really well with our mission as a zoo, which is to inspire our visitors and to educate and entertain. Aquariums are really good at that because they’re year-round facilities.

Jay Hemdal, Curator
Toledo Zoo

Photo Gallery

In the News