Henry Doorly Zoo Expansion
The 132-acre Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, situated in Omaha, NE, has rarely stayed stagnant in its growth. What began in 1894 as the small Riverview Park Zoo has ballooned into one of the country’s most celebrated zoos through consistent development projects. Over 25 million people have visited just in the last 40 years, and the complex currently houses 962 species.
In 2010, Zoo Director Dennis Pate announced that the zoo would undergo its most extensive transformation ever over the following fifteen years, with updates that included a total reorganizing of the animals by their region of the world rather than their species. In eight years following the announcement of the plan, new features included unique exhibits like the Alaskan adventure, which incorporated bronze statues of common Alaskan sea creatures, the Holland Meadowlark Amphitheater, which helps with education initiatives, and the Andean foothills, home to Andes mountain dwellers from South America.
The zoo has also invested in significant improvements to infrastructure. Its additions include better pedestrian pathways, landscaping improvements, updating the railroad for easier transportation around the massive zoo, and putting in a gate at the north end of the complex.
The zoo has not released the official total in costs of the upgrades, but projects such as the new African Grasslands are said to cost $73 million. The project has required significant investment from sponsors, grantors, loans, and individual fundraising.
The zoo closed from March-June of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and then reopened with capacity restrictions, safety measures, and certain exhibits closed. It is currently unclear how much the pandemic will influence finishing the 15-year-plan.