Award of Merit, Sports/Entertainment

The Aquatheater, nestled within the New York Aquarium along Brooklyn's Coney Island boardwalk, is home to sea lions. But the performance space for the animals was outmoded; it was originally built to exhibit Beluga whales. The space was too small and positioned too far from the audience. A team was called in to improve the comfort and safety of both the animals in the performance space and the audience in the seating area.

Building a new stage was a challenge because of its size, its cantilevers and location in a saltwater environment. Supports for the stage in the pool and holding area were ruled out because of the risk to the animals during performances. Many different materials were considered for this construction, but ultimately fiber-reinforced plastic material for structural beams as supports and finish elements was chosen for its high compression, tension and bending strength and other properties.

The project also included upgrades to the bleacher seating area and installation of a misting system to provide evaporative cooling for both the audience and performers.

The team completed the project in about nine months, despite having to contend with the effects of Superstorm Sandy, which hit just one month into construction and caused severe damage and closure of the aquarium.

New York Aquarium Aquatheater, Brooklyn

Key Players

Owner/Developer Wildlife Conservation Society

General Contractor FGI Corp.

Lead Designer Wildlife Conservation Society

Structural Engineer Dunne & Markis Consulting Structural Engineers

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