Maui Ocean Center Breaks Ground on Dome Theater Whale Exhibit

Nikki Schenfeld · February 20, 2018, 4:14 PM HST (Updated February 20, 2018, 4:16 PM) · 44 Comments


    Exhibit Concept Rendering is subject to change. Photo Courtesy of Maui Ocean Center.

    Exhibit Concept Rendering (Subject to Change). Photo Courtesy of Maui Ocean Center

    Kahu Dane Maxwell blessed the ground on Nalu Lawn as Maui Ocean Center plans to break ground for a new theater and exhibit scheduled to open in July 2018. PC: Nikki Schenfeld

    Maui Ocean Center broke ground on Wednesday for a new theater and exhibit scheduled to open in July 2018. PC: Nikki Schenfeld

    Maui Ocean Center broke ground on Wednesday for a new theater and exhibit scheduled to open in July 2018. PC: Nikki Schenfeld

    A blessing ceremony was held at the Maui Ocean Center on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 as they broke ground on the Nalu Lawn for a specialized dome theater and whale exhibit, scheduled to open in July 2018.

    Kahu Dane Maxwell led the blessing on Wednesday, just as his grandfather, Charlie Maxwell, did 20 years before to open Maui Ocean Center. The new exhibit will replace the Aquarium’s Nalu Lawn which is being relocated within the park.

    The new dome theater will feature 139 seats with 360-degree views, and a 3D short-film enabling viewers to dive with the humpbacks of Maui.

    Utilizing state-of-the-art dual laser projection technology, the dome theater will enable visitors to dive among humpback whales in an immersive, virtual experience. The monolithic dome theater will be the first of its kind in Hawaiʻi.

    “It’s not just a dome, it’s more of a sphere,” said Chris Masterson, Maui Ocean Center Exhibit Designer. “It’s sitting inside a sphere, it’s literally a round ball that you’re inside of, and that enables us to move it easily into a planetarium, which would be the first planetarium on Maui.”

    The new whale exhibit will celebrate the Humpbacks by bringing these gentle giants to Maui Ocean Center through cutting-edge visual and audio technology. The exhibit space will focus on the whales’ nomadic lifestyle, their behaviors at any given point of their migration, the different roles they engage in, and the migration routes taken globally, regionally, and within Hawaiʻi.

    Humpback whales will come to life through the combination of active 3D glasses and 4K high definition imagery produced by multiple laser projectors. The dynamic 7.1 surround audio system utilizes an advanced, LEED-certified acoustical system that is made of 100% recycled cotton and employed by the likes of NASA and the US Navy.


    Created in part with local Maui artisans and marine specialists, the facility will feature an exhibit hall with interactive learning stations and previously unseen footage of local humpbacks.

    Tapani Vuori, Maui Ocean Center’s General Manager, says the dome theater will also be open to the local community for use.

    “I’m personally really excited about having this facility because it will open it up for the local community,” he said. “We plan on doing a celestial navigation showing here. We will look for opportunities for local non-profits and community crews to come and utilize the dome theater for events. It’s all about the community.”

    Nikki Schenfeld
    Nikki joined the Maui Now team in 2016 as a writer/reporter/editor. Originally from Chicago, she has had internships with CBS2 Chicago and Comcast SportsNet Chicago where she had the opportunity to interview some of Chicago's best athletes. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2010 with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism. She moved to Maui in 2013.

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