Metallic giant once called ‘The Claw’ goes up at Draper’s Loveland Living Aquarium

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Crews lift “The Claw”, a 165-foot-tall, 190-ton stage component that rock band U2 used on its 360° Tour, into place, at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.

A massive metal object looking like an alien space craft was deployed Tuesday in Draper to help teach about the health of our planet.

Officials at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium hoisted the 190-ton steel structure once known as “The Claw” into position in its outdoor plaza, atop what will be the facility’s new Ecosystem Exploration Craft & Observatory Command Center, a high-tech instruction center focused on the environment.

“It looks fantastic,” the aquarium’s founder and CEO Brent Andersen said of the four-legged steel titan. “But it’s bigger than I recalled.”

The structure served as a traveling stage for U2’s “360° Tour” 10 years ago, which included a stop in Salt Lake City. The 165-foot-tall behemoth is one of only two that remain from the stadium tour and is billed as the largest stage ever constructed.

Aquarium officials bought it in 2016 “for a few million,” according to Andersen, with visions of making it part of a broader expansion at the Draper site that will also add a host of outdoor art installations and interactive plays areas.

The stage was shipped from Pennsylvania last winter and has required extensive structural re-engineering to match it to the location and to help it withstand Utah’s weather and potential for earthquake, Andersen said.

Crews spent Tuesday lifting the visually striking structure 16 stories off the ground and securing its legs. A central pylon goes in Wednesday.

Workers will then add a spire, lighting system and custom fabric coverings. Soon, the aquarium’s million-or-so yearly visitors will be able to use the command center beneath to take virtual-reality tours “anywhere in the world,” Andersen said.

“They can use it as an exploration craft to discover rainforests, oceans, all the ecosystems around the planet, all the animals that live there and understand that they're actually all just one global ecosystem: the living planet,” he said.

The plaza and stage, tentatively set for completion in November, are the first steps in an ongoing renovation project.

Founded in 1997, Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper houses thousands of living creatures from hundreds of species in its five main exhibits.

The next phases of its renovation will include an expanded science learning campus with an extensive Asian cloud forest habitat and exhibits devoted to conserving endangered species and other animals, along with laboratories, classrooms and meeting halls.