Zoo Miami sets attendance high, plans $40 million exhibit
By Rachel Tannenbaum
Zoo Miami had its largest attendance year on record at 840,878 visitors last year, said Benjamin Pingree, president of the Zoo Society of Florida.
As one of South Florida's largest attractions, he said, the zoo had 10,000 more visitors last year than during the zoo's peak in the late 1980s, according to a press release. Mr. Pingree said the zoo will continue to target over 1 million guests per year.
The Zoological Society, a nonprofit that supports Zoo Miami through membership, education and outreach programs, is one of South Florida's largest member-based organizations. More than 13,000 households representing 50,000 South Florida residents are Zoological Society of Florida members.
A year into his presidency, Mr. Pingree said he is focusing on the improvement of current exhibits and the creation of new ones.
These expansions and improvements include a five- to ten-year campaign, already launched, including the zoo re-branding from its former title of MetroZoo alongside a $50 million major park expansion in the Amazon and Beyond exhibit.
During the past year, Mr. Pingree said, a renovated and revamped Children's Zoo opened, including the new interactive Wacky Barn, construction of the Wings Down Under: A Parrot Feeding Adventure, updating the Oasis Grille — the central café — and the $3 million expansion of 1,000 seats to the amphitheater.
Future projects include creation of a large new exhibit. Mission: Florida Everglades is a $40 million project that will be the next great attraction, educational and resource center, Mr. Pingree predicted. The fundraising campaign for it just launched.
"The new playgrounds will offer a state-of-the art play area for kids; the renovated amphitheater will be a spectacular venue for not only our wildlife shows but also for performances and lectures; and Wings Down Under: A Parrot Feeding Adventure and the Wacky Barn offer unique animal encounters that we know our visitors enjoy," said Cindy Castelblanco, director of marketing and integrated communication.
"These expansions and renovations at Zoo Miami not only beautify and grow our zoo," she said, "but they also enhance the visitor experience and continue to give people new reasons to come back."
Plans also include the potential for creating a water park and cultural center on the Zoo Miami campus. Miami-Dade commissioners are planning to seek outside developers for those projects.
"The next few years," Mr. Pingree said, "will be focused on sharpening pencils and drilling down to turn all of these many goals into the next set of achievements."
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