Penguin Island Renovation Progress

Penguin Island, home to Adventure Aquarium’s largest-ever African penguin colony, is undergoing major renovations. The open-air exhibit located in Zone B was built in 1998 and contains 17,000 gallons of water as well as a 20-foot underwater viewing window.

As our African penguin colony continues to grow, we are eager to meet, and exceed, the needs of our birds by creating an environment that will allow them to flourish as a group.

June 8

Penguin Island Renovations - June 8

We’re in the homestretch of Phase 1 construction on Penguin Island. Here's what happened since our last update:

  • New exhibit door on opposite end of the original exhibit door is being worked on.
  • A penguin gate was also installed to keep the penguins out of the new rockwork “chute” and encourage them to remain in the guest facing locations.
  • All plumbing has been flushed, old and new, to get rid of any residual construction debris.
  • Necessary LSS connections were made and the system is running.
  • The epoxy coating for the pool was cured Tuesday morning; the pool was cleaned and filled. The Birds and Mammals team began checking and adjusting water quality and determined that further adjustment to the water chemistry would not be required.
  • The misting system for the penguins will be installed and tested within the next few days.
  • You may notice rocks have been placed in three of the nesting grottos on exhibit. This was done so penguins cannot access these nests. The rockwork vendor will be coming back to do some minor repairs. A date has not yet been confirmed.
  • Finally, the cinderblock wall will be painted on exhibit to make it satisfactory for our guests until Phase 2 begins this fall.

May 23

Penguin Construction Update - May 23

The rockwork on Penguin Island has been completed. The concrete forms, texture and detail will be colored to give a more natural look to the exhibit. In addition, a company has been onsite to clean the interior pool of the exhibit (below water surface). They will seal and paint the pool where new rockwork has been installed.

Next, we will be working on installing a secondary door to give the biologists access to the exhibit. This door will be located at the opposite end from where the current door is located. The addition of another door will give our biologists the opportunity to hopefully encourage the penguins to spread out on the exhibit as they won’t know which door to position in front of prior to feedings or at the end of the day.

May 16

Penguin Island Renovations - Week 4

The rockwork forms have been filled solid with concrete and all nest boxes and rock formations have been placed in the exhibit. You can see the attached pictures for a very different looking landscape in the exhibit for our colony to explore and create nesting territories.

A misting system layout has been incorporated into the rockwork which will help our African penguins stay cool in the warmer temperatures when they’re on exhibit.

The system that will heat the deck is being laid out and the controls for this system are being installed (Electrical sub). The orange cable you see on the deck area in the attached depicts the system which will keep the deck from freezing and keep our penguins warm in colder temperatures.

In addition, JCI has plumbed-in a small water feature that will serve as enrichment for the penguins and this will add a little interest to the hardscape.

May 5

Penguin Construction Update - Week 1

The Life Support System (LSS) update is complete, as far as some upgrades to the filtration system and plumbing. JCI engineers are doing additional work on the sand filters and heat exchangers to get them 100% ready to restart the system. More upgrades will be added later in the year during phase two of construction.

Rockwork demo is finished and the installation of new rockwork forms for the shoreline is about three quarters complete. Nest forms and freestanding boulder formations are starting to be placed in the exhibit as well. The first layer of concrete is beginning to be applied on the forms.

Electric for the LSS will be finished today and early next week the electric subcontractor will continue with the installation of radiant heat for the deck. (This will keep our penguins warm on colder days and keep the ice from forming on the deck during the winter!).

April 27 - Construction will take place in two phases

Penguin Island Construction Phases


Phase 1 - April 24 through mid-June

  • The land area will be completely renovated to include custom textured rockwork specially-designed for good penguin foot health.
  • The beach landscape will also be reshaped to include additional zero-entry areas in and out of the pool.  (FYI - Zero-entry, also called beach entry, is an edge into a pool that gradually slopes from the land into the water, becoming deeper with each step, similar to a natural beach. Cool, right?)
  • The exhibit pool will switch from fresh to salt water which will more closely mimic their natural ocean environment.
  • A radiant heating system will also be installed beneath the land areas of the exhibit. The system will heat the decks during the winter months, ensuring the penguins are more comfortable in cooler temperatures, preventing snow and ice buildup and protecting the deck from cracking due to winter freeze and thaw cycles.
  • The back of house Life Support System (LSS) will be upgraded.
  • Nesting grottos, nooks and caves will be constructed throughout the exhibit, allowing the penguins to create a more diverse, complex environment and establish more territories.

Phase 2 – Beginning this fall!

  • The current back of house penguin holding building will be renovated and expanded upon to which will double the size of this behind the scenes area.
  • An indoor holding pool will be added.
  • New nesting areas will be built to accommodate the growing colony.

The newly renovated Penguin Island will officially reopen in the spring of 2018!

*From mid-June through the end of the summer, the African penguins will be back on exhibit! 



April 24 - Renovation Press Release Announcement

Penguin Island Construction



Penguin Island, home to Adventure Aquarium’s largest-ever African penguin colony, will undergo major renovations, Aquarium officials announced today. The open-air exhibit, built in 1998, contains 17,000 gallons of water and a 20-foot underwater viewing window.