Kansas City Zoo could be divided, new attractions added

Saturday, February 26, 2011 | 7:42 p.m. CST

KANSAS CITY — One of the top complaints visitors have about the Kansas City Zoo is its large size, which can make it difficult to see all the animal park's far-flung exhibits.

A master plan for the next decade, presented this week to the Friends of the Zoo, offers suggestions for making the 202-acre zoo more user-friendly while increasing revenue and entertainment options.

"One of the things we want to do is change the perception of the zoo," said Michael A. Schaadt, a principal with PGAV architects who worked on the master plan. "To go from 'It's big, it's hot, it can be intimidating' to 'The zoo is just right for me.'"

The plan suggests essentially dividing the zoo into three separate areas, allowing visitors to enjoy one area at a time and come back later to see the rest.

Zoo officials are already working on some parts of the plan, but other sections would have to wait until funding sources are found. The architects did not include cost estimates, The Kansas City Star reported.

Under the plan, the zoo would be divided into:

  • Penguin Plaza: Fundraising has begun for a $15 million penguin exhibit, with plans to open it in 2013 near the carousel in the central part of the zoo. The current sea lion exhibit and dining areas would be expanded, and a water playground for children and a mini-golf course would be added.
  • Tiger Jungle: This section would have an Australian-Asian theme with a new "predator canyon" tiger exhibit where the old ape house now stands. The orangutan exhibit would be remade into a more natural setting.
  • African Safari: A sky ride currently being constructed will take visitors over the African plains, and visitors will be able to feed giraffes. The existing loop to the gorilla exhibit might be closed, with the apes brought closer to the African village and tram stop.

The Friends of the Zoo has already begun a campaign to raise private capital and is considering the possibility of asking voters in Jackson, Clay, Platte and Cass counties to join a zoo taxing district.

The plan also includes revenue-producing "enterprise zones" in the zoo, which would include more retail, dining and entertainment.

The zoo board expects to vote on the master plan this spring.

"This is not just an academic exercise to put on a shelf," said Friends of the Zoo Chairman Bill Crandall. "This is something we can execute, just like we did with the polar bear exhibit."

The zoo opened an $11 million polar bear exhibit last September.

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