SAN DIEGO - Plastic panels from Reynolds Polymer Technology Inc. help protect visitors from killer whales, polar bears and tons of chilled water at two San Diego attractions. At the 2.2-acre Polar Bear Plunge at the San Diego Zoo, a crane on May 15 installed a Reynolds flat acrylic panel measuring 27 feet by 10 feet by 5 inches thick. The structural silicone sealant carried a curing requirement of 17-21 days, and the exhibit opened June 29.
``We kept the area within a quarter-inch on the concrete sill size,'' said Jerry Perrella, contracts manager with Worley Construction Co. of San Diego.
The panel weighs more than 9,000 pounds and provides above-water and below-water views of white polar bears in the 12-foot deep end of a pool with 130,000 gallons of chilled water. Nearby, trilaminated glass viewing windows extend for 112 feet along the exhibit's water level.
In February, Sea World of California Vice President Pat Owen and project manager Greg Gourley visited Reynolds' 45,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to inspect three 25-foot-by-9-foot-by-6-inch curve-formed acrylic panels before their shipment to San Diego.
Water pressure and post-tension cabling in the overhead beam hold the panels in place without mullions or vertical supports. Two half-inch seams of structural silicone seal the three panels together.
The viewing gallery for Sea World's underwater Shamu Back-stage exhibit allows unobstructed views of killer whales in a 1.7 million-gallon, 18-foot-deep tank without a railing.
``This allows people to view the whales very close-up,'' Gourley said.