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Aquarium expansion brings ‘the Claw’ to Draper

May 17, 2018 01:45PM ● By City Journals Staff

An artist rendering of the Claw, Loveland Living Planet Aquarium and the Science Learning Center. (Rendering courtesy Loveland Living Planet Aquarium)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected] 

A piece of rock-and-roll history is coming to Draper as part of the new expansion of the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. The Claw, a 165-foot-tall structure that served as U2’s stage for their record-breaking 360° tour in 2009–2011, will serve as an awe-inspiring addition to the aquarium’s new Science Learning Campus.  

Accommodating up to 7,000 people, the Claw will be used as a community gathering space for special events, concerts and exhibits. Aquarium officials project the Claw and other surrounding learning and play spaces will be in place by summer 2019.    

When Loveland Living Planet Aquarium founder and CEO Brent Anderson attended the U2 360° concert, he was awestruck by the stage and immediately interested when he learned that the structure was available. 

“When I saw it for the first time in Barcelona, I literally stopped in my tracks and marveled at it, and held up the line of people behind me,” said Anderson. “I saw the complex engineering, and the amount of work that must have gone into designing and building it. But, I didn’t view it as merely a functional piece of stage architecture; to me it was a dynamic sculpture and a work of art. I remember vividly that it elicited emotions of reverence and awe. It is absolutely massive yet feels lightweight, fierce yet beautiful, powerful but delicate.”

The circular, four-legged Claw weighs 190 tons and covers 28,287 square feet. It is the largest stage of its kind ever constructed and originally allowed concertgoers to surround the band on all sides, vastly increasing the size of audiences. 

The Claw will be an example of how the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium incorporates works of art and architectural elements to create an immersive moment of wonder for visitors. The exterior of the building aims to evoke sea life with a massive fin and an LED array creates undulating colors at night. In the lobby, life-sized whale sculptures are suspended overhead with their massive size.  

“When you have inspiring things around you — art, animals and the people with you, it can open your heart and mind to a new way of thinking,” said Heather Doggett, vice president of operations. 

The aquarium seeks to provide visitors with a deeper appreciation of the world we live in and the role that each of us has in protecting the environment. As a majestic symbol, “The Claw will shine a light on the mission of the aquarium to inspire stewardship of the planet,” said Doggett.   

The Claw will be just one facet of a larger Science Learning Campus. An educational eco-challenge escape room will be built underneath the stage while an outdoor wildlife theater and woodland-themed play area will be constructed in the immediate vicinity. A new Science Learning Center, with classroom and event spaces in addition to a five-story indoor rainforest, is planned. Site prep for the Claw and eco-challenge room will begin this fall. 

There are logistical challenges ahead for the aquarium regarding the installation of the Claw. It will take approximately 42 trucks to transport it to Utah from its current location on the east coast. The Claw, which was built to be taken apart and moved to different locations, will be installed permanently and needs to be painted.  

In its old location, an average of 430,000 people visited the aquarium annually. With the completion of its current building four years ago, the number of visitors jumped to 1 million. It is hoped that the new Science Learning Campus, crowned by the iconic Claw, will empower millions more to explore, discover and learn about Earth’s diverse ecosystems.

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium relies largely on community support and has set up a GoFundMe link for the expansion on its website: