EECO and Plaza at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

Draper, Utah



OWNER: Loveland Living Planet Aquarium


GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Complete Contracting Co.

CIVIL ENGINEER: Ensign Engineering

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Atelier One (EECO Structure); Dunn Associates (Buildings and Plaza)

MEP ENGINEER: Spectrum Engineers



SUBCONTRACTORS: All Around Mechanical; Custom Mechanical Design; G&B Glass GE Electric; Ridge Rock; SME Steel; Tritex

The key feature of the aquarium’s new Science Learning Campus is its Ecosystem Exploration Craft & Observatory, or EECO, which repurposes a 190-ton, 165-ft-tall metal sculpture that originally served as U2’s stage during the band’s 360-degree tour. 

After seeing the sculpture, also known as “the Claw,” during a 2011 concert and later learning it was available to a nonprofit, aquarium owner Brett Anderson knew the plaza at his venue would be the perfect place for it. 

But the sculpture had been sitting in pieces in a storage facility for 10 years, and the aging and rusting structure required X-rays to assess its structural integrity and ensure there was no water trapped inside that could freeze in Utah’s climate. Shop drawings no longer existed for the structure, so the team recreated them through a 3D digital model.

That model also allowed for changes to the sculpture required by snow and wind factors in Utah and modifications to convert what was meant to be a temporary concert stage into a permanent structure. The team manufactured new sections and altered some existing pieces, requiring precise coordination of the fabrication of metal sections and the tensile fabric membrane.

EECO and Plaza at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

Photo by Beecher Walker

New permanent footings were linked 16 ft underground to support the structure in the 118,000-sq-ft plaza, which serves as a gathering space, outdoor learning center and stage for outdoor events but also represents a futuristic vessel exploring and learning about the interconnected ecosystems of the planet.

The plaza’s center stage is the roof of an underground structure that will be home to the EECO Command Center, which will offer visitors an interactive science and ecology-based experience via virtual reality.

The area also includes new outdoor interactive exhibits and learning areas, play spaces, a zip line, a mountain stream with native fish, landscape specimens and educational materials. The project also created a new entry with an upgraded ticketing area and offices, restrooms for outdoor events and additional lighting and sound systems to enhance live performances at the site.