After 2 years of renovations, new Moody Gardens aquarium set to open May 27

GALVESTON, Texas - Three weeks from Saturday, the Moody Gardens aquarium pyramid will fully reopen after nearly two years of renovations.

Of all the changes, the smallest additions are probably the cutest.

“They have a lot of personality. People are going to love seeing them,” said assistant curator Diane Olsen.

The 10 Humboldt penguins moved into their new home only 10 days ago. While they may not realize it, they are part of a big renovation with an even bigger message.

“We have the ability to show people that the impacts that we make -- over-fishing, climate change, all of that -- is affecting these penguins. That's why they're threatened, their food sources are disappearing. So it's really important that we understand our impacts so we can help save them,” Olsen said.

While the penguins are technically a Peruvian breed, they came to Galveston from zoos in Portland and Seattle. The move makes Moody Gardens one of the closest places Houstonians can see Humboldts.

“It's part of this giant renovation and everything is new. This building is phenomenal right now. So I think everybody is going to be super excited about everything they see and the penguins will be the icing on the cake,” Olsen said.

If the penguins are the icing, then the new four-story-tall oil rig replica is the cake itself.

“What we've tried to do is incorporate man's place in nature. Not only do we play a role in degrading habitats but we also improve habitats and the petrochemical industry is a double-edged sword,” Greg Whittaker said.

As the animal husbandry manager at Moody Gardens, Whittaker has played a big role in redesigning the aquarium pyramid. You may not think it, but including an oil rig in a building devoted to marine life makes a lot of sense. Just consider the support structure beneath the water's waves.

“They get encrusted with natural biodiversity that lives right on the metal structures underwater, which creates its own ecosystem," Whittaker said. “That in turn creates an entire food web, which translates to a lot of the commercial fisheries and the recreational fisheries that we go out and enjoy.”

Renovation isn't just about creating new exhibits, it also involves modifications to existing attractions. Take, for example, a fan favorite that gains a shipwreck.

“The Carribean exhibit has been here since we opened but by adding this one little component in there, it's added a piece of interesting exhibitry that people like to look at … and it also ties in to the messaging again of the human's place in the natural world. These things that we lose in shipwrecks then turn into natural habitat,” Whittaker said.

The grand reveal to the public will take place on May 27.

Tickets are already available if you purchase online.

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