SALT LAKE CITY — It took longer than expected, but the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium’s newest attraction will soon be perched alongside I-15.

The attraction? A massive stage originally used for U2’s “360° Tour,” formerly referred to as “The Claw,” which will become the centerpiece of the Draper aquarium’s outdoor plaza. Starting sometime between Monday, Sept. 23, and that following weekend, the 190-ton, 165-foot-tall stage will be erected, said Brent Andersen, the aquarium’s founder and CEO. As for which specific day it will start, it depends on wind conditions.

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It’s been a long time coming: Loveland Aquarium broke ground for the addition last October, and it had already been in the works since late 2014/early 2015. The stage was initially scheduled to go up in fall 2018 or spring 2019. In a recent interview with the Deseret News, Andersen said the stage has undergone numerous structural modifications since it was transported to the site last winter. This includes numerous large steel frames — “and by large, I mean they weigh about 10,000 pounds each,” Andersen said — being redesigned to handle Utah’s snow loads. These modifications also involved making the structure more windproof and earthquake proof.

Brent Andersen, founder and CEO of the Living Planet Aquarium, attends the groundbreaking ceremony of the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium at 12033 S. Lone Peak Parkway in Draper on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012.
FILE - Brent Andersen, founder and CEO of the Living Planet Aquarium, attends the groundbreaking ceremony of the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium at 12033 S. Lone Peak Parkway in Draper on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The plaza and its accompanying stage are phase one of the aquarium’s ongoing renovation project. As the Deseret News previously reported, phase two will be the aquarium’s expanded Science Learning Campus, which will be 80,000 square feet, with a five-story Asian cloud forest habitat. Other features will include an endangered species conservation center, interactive science stations, new indoor and outdoor animal exhibits, laboratories, classrooms and a banquet and conference center.

Underground, right beneath the former U2 stage, will be an interactive “Eco Command Center” for simulated team-building activities.

The entire new plaza, Andersen said, is currently scheduled to be completed sometime in November. He said the aquarium will host a plaza-lighting ceremony around that time, but “to open it up when there might be a foot of snow on the ground doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” so the official plaza opening will probably happen next spring.

“There’s a lot of stress,” he added. “But at the same time, I’m smiling a lot — which is unusual for me during construction projects; it’s usually just stressful.”