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Draper Journal

Light and music shows resume at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

Apr 22, 2021 08:39AM ● By Katherine Weinstein

“Nights Under Lights” audiences are treated to a spectacular light show on the Ecosystem Exploration Craft and Observatory set to music starting this month at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. (Photo courtesy Loveland Living Planet Aquarium)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

On April 24, Loveland Living Planet Aquarium (LLPA) will resume their popular outdoor music program, “Nights Under Lights.” The Ecosystem Exploration Craft and Observatory (EECO) on the Aquarium’s plaza will come alive with brilliant and colorful lights synced to recorded music in a series of monthly themed shows.

Last summer, “Nights Under Lights,” proved to be a crowd-pleasing showcase for EECO. “It was really exciting to see how people engage with it as an art sculpture,” said Layne Pitcher, director of marketing and communications. “It was very rewarding to see people enjoy EECO and the plaza.” 

Formerly known as “The Claw,” EECO was originally constructed over a decade ago as the stage for U2’s record-breaking 360° tour. Aquarium founder and CEO, Brent Anderson, attended a U2 concert in Europe and was awestruck by the structure. “I didn’t view it as merely a functional piece of stage architecture, to me it was a dynamic sculpture and a work of art,” said Anderson in 2018. He decided to purchase it for the Aquarium’s new plaza.

EECO was installed at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in the fall of 2019. The 165- foot tall structure has marked the Salt Lake Valley skyline ever since. It functions as a gathering space for special events, concerts and exhibits and stands as a beacon to draw visitors.

Nearly 200 LED fixtures have been installed on EECO to illuminate it in a variety of colors and patterns in varying intensities. The fact that LED lighting is used instead of incandescent bulbs greatly reduces EECO's energy footprint. 

Multiple designers were involved in creating the designs and color palette. The project was a joint effort between LLPA staff and consultants from Performance Audio in Salt Lake City. 

"The entire structure is your canvas, the light is your paint," explained Tom Thorne, AV engineer with Performance Audio. 

Creating the "Nights Under Lights" shows means wedding light and color to the emotion and rhythms of the music. Thorne likened the creative process to inventing a dance. The lighting designer looks to amplify and punctuate different parts of a song through the color and intensity of light. "A shift in color reflects a shift in mood," he said. "You get a vibe for the feeling, a balance between light and dark."

"Even leaving the structure dark for a second creates a dynamic matching the emotion of the song," Pitcher said. 

The entire show is programmed and operated using a Strand NEO console. "It is exhilarating being able to run a show like that," Pitcher said. "It's like playing music at a club, only you're operating this gigantic structure and seeing the audience's reaction." 

Last summer, the music played at "Nights Under Lights" ranged from hits of the 80’s to current pop and country. LLPA is considering doing different musical themes each month. In a nod to EECO's origins, a U2 song or two is played to cap off each evening. 

At least one show per month is planned through September, but more could be added as a few shows sold out last year. "We're being safe by making sure everyone can social distance," said Pitcher, referring to audience capacity. "We'll see what we can safely do."

"Nights Under Lights" is family-friendly and audiences are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. A variety of food trucks will be available but guests can also bring their own snacks and drinks. No alcohol is permitted. On show nights, the Plaza will open at 6:30 p.m. and the light show will begin at dusk. 

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is located at 12033 Lone Peak Parkway in Draper. For more information and a link to purchase tickets, visit