NEWPORT, Ky—Since the announcement of Stingray Hideaway: Enter their World in January, the site has undergone an incredible transformation as we prepare for our stingrays—and for all of you!
Stingray Hideaway is Coming Together!
Walk into the construction zone and you can see everything taking shape: the 17,000-gallon stingray touch pool’s waterproofing has begun, the almost 30-foot tunnel is in place and the silicone seals are drying, the rock work décor walls are being reconstructed, and much more. Soon, the tanks will be 100% waterproofed and leak testing will commence. Then we will convert it to saltwater. Once the environment has passed its evaluation and quality control process … the stingrays will arrive!
According to Jeff Gibula, Zoological Operations and Exhibit Design Manager, Stingray Hideaway is becoming one of the biggest transformations to an attraction space since its expansion in 2005.
That transformation did not come about overnight, or even in a couple of months! The project has been two plus years in the making, and has involved the coordinated efforts of a lot of people and skill sets to make it happen.
Soon, we’ll all get to see the brand-new finished space, but for now, let’s take a look behind-the-scenes at Stingray Hideaway’s transformation.
Two Years in the Making
From the beginning, many teams have been involved in the process: concept and design, animal husbandry, finance, architects, construction, specialists in concrete and acrylics, and more. That’s a lot of people to coordinate! Gibula has his hands in all aspects of the planning and construction, acting as an animal, exhibit, and water quality liaison between the involved teams.
But before any of the construction could even begin, the basic criteria of what we wanted the guest to experience had to be formed. After that, every part of the exhibit had to be designed to fit that —from the types of animals, to the features of the exhibit and the touch tank itself. Colors and backdrops were decided, dimensions measured out, and a custom-designed water filtration system built.
An interactive experience was important from the beginning. Stingrays were decided on because not only are they popular, but they are a hardy, sustainable species—and one that doesn’t mind letting humans touch them!
Every detail has been discussed and decided beforehand… including the name!
Meaning Behind the Name
“A lot of names were thrown around, but we chose Stingray Hideaway for a reason,” Gibula said. “We designed it to look like we’re in a cove, away from all the pressures of the city and of everyday life. It’s designed to look like a lagoon opening up from the ocean.”
This lagoon idea has a personal connection for Gibula. When his daughter was younger, he used to take her on vacation to Puerto Rico, where they would stay in a beach house on a lagoon. And every day, they would go out to the water of the lagoon and the tide would sweep in fish and other sea creatures that they would scoop up in jars. Gibula remembers her excitement at getting to see and interact with these creatures up close before they let them go back into the water. “This memory expanded into something to share with everybody,” he said.
Stay tuned for Part 2: A Hideaway for You… and for Stingrays, Too! Learn about the vitally important part of the exhibit.