Seattle Aquarium deals with seawall construction

by: Chris Legeros Updated:


SEATTLE - The pounding of heavy equipment echoes under Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct. Much of the area is fenced off across the street from the Seattle Aquarium.

A visitor inside, Michele LeBlanc, noticed.

“Just the craziness on the road here. Some of it closed off. A lot of parking spaces gone,” said LeBlanc.

 It's just the start of two years of construction on the waterfront, as Seattle replaces its aging seawall. A sign is up saying businesses are open. The unanswered question is how much they could be hurt by the disruptions that usually come with closures and detours.

"Ninety percent of our revenue depends on people getting to us,” said the Aquarium's president, Bob Davidson.

The Aquarium is one of the only businesses that will stay open for the entire two-year construction period, along with the Great Wheel and Argosy Cruises.

Davidson can't predict how many visitors the Aquarium may lose.

“No one knows what it's going to be. I can't tell you today if we're going to have a five percent drop, a ten, 25 percent -- who knows?" said Davidson.

 So far, there hasn't been any drop off. There were more visitors to the Aquarium over Thanksgiving weekend this year than last year.

What happens when the pavement out front gets really torn up? At one point during construction, a big trench is going to be dug between the Aquarium and the street. Visitors are going to have to cross over ramps to get inside, much like stepping over a gangway to board a cruise ship.

Jen Keeling visits the aquarium at least once a month. She said construction hassles could, at some point, keep her from bringing her daughter Quinn.

“We might avoid it, just so we don't have to cart munchkin around for blocks because of parking,” said Keeling.

The Aquarium is aggressively using its website and newsletters to tell people they can get to the facility during the entire construction period and there will always be parking available nearby.

Strategies to keep visitors coming include adding new exhibits and events.

“They have to think there's something fresh going on, some reason to bring the family down,” said Davidson.

If attendance drops dramatically, the Aquarium is working on getting a financial safety net from the city -- cash that could be used to feed its creatures and keep workers employed.