Six years after concerns the Great Plain Zoo would close for good, the Sioux Falls attraction has doubled the amount of guests and tripled the number of memberships. And with so much growth, the zoo is now making advancements to appeal to the thousands of visitors.
New additions are on display at the Great Plains Zoo this fall and we're not just talking about the baby animals. Sure, there's a baby giraffe that is six feet tall, but the zoo is building something much, much bigger.
Behind this construction fence, the Monkeys, Magic and More advancement is taking shape near the entrance of the zoo.
"You can see the beginning of our gateway. This will be our new ticketing entrance; people will come right on through," President and CEO Elizabeth Whealy said.
Whealy walks around the $4.2 million project replacing the 45-year-old entrance that's outlived its usefulness.
"It took out some old infrastructure that no longer worked for the zoo and replaces it with excitement and color and welcoming open arms for people to come to the zoo," Whealy said.
Whealy says the new entrance will better manage the increased zoo attendance that tops out near 250,000 annual visitors, nearly double what it was in 2005. The project will create a new greeting plaza for guests and a summer pond for flamingos. But the focal point will be a new exhibit featuring a troop of 25 snow monkeys.
"They'll be hooting and hollering. They'll be very interactive, very curious. They'll be very exciting animals to watch all year round," Whealy said.
Their exhibit includes natural elements and because they're native to snowy mountains of Japan, they'll be comfortable on display during South Dakota's harsh winters.
The main public building housing the Delbridge Museum of Natural History will also get a face lift, adding curb appeal while building additional classrooms and a more accessible gift shop.
It's all part of the soo's master plan, with this first phase scheduled to open next spring. Whealy hopes the new advancements will continue to bring in families from across the region at a record pace.
During the second phase, the zoo is also planning to bring a pride of lions back to Sioux Falls. The new exhibit will be built near the rhino exhibit.