Zootennial Plaza to transform center of San Antonio Zoo, commemorate 100th anniversary

Zoo looks for donors to fund $8 million project

The San Antonio Zoo is asking visitors to pardon their dust over the next year as they get ready to celebrate the zoo's 100th anniversary.

Dawn Koehler, the development and public affairs Manager for the zoo, said visitors may notice a big mess as they make room for Zootennial Plaza, a new area that will commemorate the zoo's milestone.

"The demolition started just a week ago and our plan is to open it in January a year from now," Koehler said. "It's a good mess to have."

Zootennial Plaza is being built near the center of the park near the former Seal Island exhibit. Koehler said a handful of birds had to be moved to new homes to make way for the new construction.

"There's not that many animals that were displaced because of this. It was mainly birds and we've put them in different areas of the zoo and they've gone to other zoos as well," Koehler said. "We mainly have what we call Bird Row and Seal Island was also there years ago, but Seal Island hasn't been in operation for about eight years and the ice cream deck and the ice cream shop that people remember is going away as well."

When completed, the plaza will be a central gathering area for families and will house a new upscale restaurant with more seating space.

"Our Riverview Restaurant that we have right now only seats about 100 people, and with 1.2 million visitors every year, we're in desperate need to have more restaurant availability," Koehler said. "It will be a little more upscale. We'll still have the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs, but we'll  have a little bit better menu to choose from as well from our restaurant."

Zootennial Plaza will also see the return of a carousel to the zoo, complete with one of a kind, handcrafted animals currently being created by artists in Kansas. The zoo is looking for donors to adopt some of those carousel critters to help pay for the $8 million dollar project. Naming opportunities are available to donors starting at $15,000 and going up to $100,000.

"We already have a zebra claimed and a warthog claimed, we even have an opportunity for someone to sponsor a chupacabre if they like," Koehler said. "This is a great thing that many San Antonians remember riding the carousel as they have done the train for so many years so this is a perfect opportunity to celebrate our 100th anniversary."

The construction of Zootennial Plaza will take an entire year, but Koehler said it shouldn't be too disruptive to visitors.

"Please excuse our mess," Koehler said. "We still have lots of great things to see here at the zoo."

For a list of recent stories by Tim Gerber, click here.


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