Construction roars despite pandemic woes at the Sedgwick County Zoo

Local

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Construction is roaring at the Sedgwick County Zoo. A new entrance will welcome you in May, and a remodeled leopards exhibit in July. 

The coronavirus shutdown last year left the Sedgwick County Zoo more than a million dollars in debt. The marketing director said the budget is still in the hole, but the community has helped dramatically. 

The Rethmeier family said the Sedgwick County Zoo is a long family tradition and the new upgrades give them a reason to keep coming back.

“We’re kind of like I remember when this was opened, I remember when this was opened, and now we’re seeing them work on the Asian cat exhibit, and we’re like we’re excited for that one and just continuing to see the zoo grow out,” said Ian Rethmeier.

It’s community members like the Rethmeier family that has kept the Sedgwick County Zoo as the main attraction.

“We implemented a couple of new fundraising drives and engaged new donors, the community just really came through, and supported us,” said Jennica King, Sedgwick County Zoo marketing and public relations director. “We will continue to find new ways to do things, new ways to fundraise, new ways to engage donors, new events to happen.”

King said in May, following the shutdown, the zoo was in a $1.7 million deficit, but now the budget is just $400,000 short.

“Just doing that, we were able to really make up a lot of those funs,” said King.

As for construction, King said all projects for the first phase of the 25-year master plan are on schedule. 

For the upcoming phases in the next 25-year master plan, notable projects in subsequent phases include:

  • African lodge hotel and waterpark: utilize undeveloped land behind the Zoo to build a destination resort with dramatic views of a new African Savanna
  • Community events center: build a state-of-the-art venue for weddings, meetings, and community events complete with an aquatic viewing feature and an onsite catering facility
  • Stingray touch experience: enable guests to watch, touch, and feed stingrays in an environment full of ocean conservation messaging and education opportunities
  • Aquarium: expand existing Amphibians & Reptiles building to include large oceanic species
  • Animal carousel: provide a fun and engaging way to highlight the endangered species that we care for in the Zoo and in the wild
  • New concert stage and central plaza area: build an outdoor concert and event venue with the potential for multimedia experiences, animal demonstrations, and overnight campouts
  • Orangutan O-Line: increase the space available to orangutans and put them closer to guests than ever before
  • Aerial sky rides: provide an alternate mode of transportation as well as a new perspective of the Zoo

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The Sedgwick County Zoo is currently responsible for an estimated economic impact of $43 million to the Wichita community. Most guests come from within a 100-mile radius.

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