The new Portland Aquarium was inspired, at least in part, by Dr. Marc Gottlieb’s desire to give metro-area families the same opportunity to interact with ocean life that his own sons enjoy in San Diego.
“We are always surrounded by ocean life in San Diego,” says Gottlieb. But his wife, Clover, who grew up near Vancouver, WA, spent her childhood seeing ocean life only on occasional trips to the coast.
The need and desire for an aquarium in an area where his wife has her roots inspired Gottlieb to join his financial adviser, Vince Covino, and his brother, Ammon, in opening the Portland Aquarium at 16323 SE McLoughlin Blvd. The Covina brothers had opened a similar aquarium in Boise – the Idaho Aquarium – and the idea of an interactive aquarium appealed to Gottlieb. The Portland Aquarium has 12 hands-on exhibits.
Gottlieb, a California chiropractor, appreciates the importance of a hands-on experience – both in his practice and for children exploring a new environment. In his family chiropractic practice, he impacts patients ranging in age from a few minutes to 104 years. Likewise, he says, “We opened an aquarium to make an impact on the community and to create a legacy.” If early reaction is any indication, they’ve definitely made an impact. Hundreds turned out for the early opening for members Dec. 10, and the Dec. 15 general opening was packed. By mid-January, the aquarium’s Facebook page had nearly 27,000 “likes,” and Vince Covino reports daily attendance continues to be high.
Gottlieb’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors who moved to Scotland after they escaped the Shoah. Gottlieb was born in Scotland and spent the first nine years of his life in Scotland and England.
“I try to live by the values I was raised with,” says Gottlieb. “We live by Jewish values. Creating a legacy and creating a better world for our children is important to us.”
Gottlieb and his wife brought their two sons, Jett, 6, and Jax, 4, to Portland for the aquarium opening.
“To see all the children coming in to see ocean life was incredible,” says Gottlieb. “We provide an experiential aquarium to let them touch ocean life – they touch, feed and learn.”
Gottlieb’s favorite exhibit is a special tank where visitors can feed, touch and interact with stingrays and sharks. “Stingrays are very docile,” says Gottlieb, adding that in the ocean it is safe to swim with them if you don’t threaten them. On the way out of the aquarium, kids can visit the rainforest room full of iguanas, chameleons, frogs and a play structure. There’s also an Imagination Station near the exit where parents can sit while kids dress up as sharks and alligators.
Gottlieb says they are very conscious of the safety of the animals. For instance, the aquarium has cloth towels rather than paper towels available near exhibits where children get their hands (and maybe much more) wet. Paper towel debris or hand sanitizer that found its way into the tanks would be a health risk for the animals, he notes. More exhibits will be added in coming months including an otter exhibit and sea turtles for kids to compare to the giant tortoise already in residence. Plans for school field trips and summer camps are in the works too.
Open 10 am-8 pm 365 days a year
16323 SE McLoughlin Blvd.
Milwaukie, OR 97267