Louisville Zoo plans major, $180 million expansion - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville Zoo plans major, $180 million expansion

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A major facelift is in the works for the Louisville Zoo as part of a plan to turn the Zoo into an even bigger, regional attraction.

The Louisville Zoo has updated its master plan for the first time since 1999 -- and it calls for a multi-million-dollar expansion.

Katie Schmitt and her son, Henry, love the Louisville Zoo, even on a cold day in February.

"It's the animals," Schmitt said. "Him with the animals, and getting to see animals from the books and on TV, and he gets to see them in real life."

In a few years, there may be even more for Henry to see. The Zoo's new master plan calls for a $180 million expansion.

"This new master plan is going to transport people from Louisville, KY to to the African savanna, to the oceans of the world, to these remote locations that most people can't afford to visit," said Zoo Director John Walczak.

The transformation will begin at the front door. The Zoo entrance will get a major overhaul, and the popular waterpark will be expanded.

"It will be very, very welcoming with a great botanical and art presence with animal sculptures," Walczak said.

As for the animal spaces, the Zoo plans to replicate large, natural habitats, specifically, an African savanna for the elephants and lions. 

"So that you can really appreciate what the African savanna looks like, so that we can do a really accurate depiction of the habitat and create a wonderful home for the animals," Walczak said.

At the same time, Walczak says the displays allow patrons to get up close and personal. Animals such as the orangutans will be free to move to different areas through enclosed overpasses just above customers' heads.

Walczak says most of the expansion will be paid for with private donations and done in phases.

"So that we do it in a way the community can embrace it, be engaged by it, love it, and support it," he said.

The plan already has Katie Schmitt's support.

"It's already great and interactive for him now," Schmitt said. "I can't imagine, with the expansion, it will be even better."

The master plan extends to 2028, but actual the construction timeline will depend on fundraising.

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