Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Monterey Bay Aquarium has relied on ORCA's continued services for more than a decade, requesting ORCA's involvement in projects and issue resolution. Based on this successful working relationship, Al Shacklett was invited as a guest speaker at the first annual conference for Aquarium Operations Managers, which was hosted by MBA.



From 1994 through 1997, ORCA supported the development of the Outer Bay Waters (OBW) expansion with three major studies:

  • Assessment of the impact of increased attendance and visitor length of stay generated by the planned expansion on parking demand within the City of Monterey, and subsequent determination of parking space requirements for a new city parking garage which coincided with the opening of the OBW expansion;
  • Assessment of visitor flow characteristics for OBW, including recommendations for improvements to optimize attendance capacity and the visitor experience, and an organizing circulation hub at the entrance of the exhibit, which was subsequently incorporated into the expansion design; and
  • Development of a new layout of the ticketing area to optimize the use of the limited available space and a new queue area to accommodate waiting lines on high attendance days.


ORCA was called upon by MBA management in 2001 to address the crowding issues that were being experienced on busy days. The Aquarium spaces, which were originally designed to support a maximum annual attendance of 500,000, were by then experiencing attendance of over 2 million. In response to this request, ORCA conducted an assessment of attendance peaking and visitor utilization of all public areas of the Aquarium complex. This assessment identified and quantified three major findings:

  • There was a significant imbalance in crowding levels within the Aquarium on busy days;
  • Circulation gridlock was occurring in the Aquarium entrance areas; and
  • Attendance capacity limitations on busy days were resulting in significant lost attendance on these days.

As a result of the first finding, ORCA recommended developing a 2nd level pedestrian bridge to connect the upper levels of the Aquarium and improve circulation patterns throughout the Aquarium.

The second and third findings led ORCA to recommend several key modifications that were included in a major architectural rework of the Aquarium entry complex, including development of a new ticketing and queuing area in a previously existing administration building and opening up the entry lobby space and relocating an exterior wall of the primary circulation corridor to better accommodate visitor flow volumes on busy days. As part of this analysis, ORCA provided a financial analysis, which was presented to the Aquarium board, to show that a significant part of the expansion could be recouped by increased attendance capacity on busy days.

ORCA supported the project architect, EHDD, on the Entry Remodel project. Completed in 2004, the project won the 2000-2009 Community Service Award for Best in New Construction and Renovation.

In 2008, ORCA supported planning for the Shark Mountain exhibit, working with the design team to ensure that visitor circulation and operational issues were thoroughly addressed and that the exhibit design was optimized in these areas.

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