Kansas City Zoo Officials Celebrate Progress Of New ‘Game Changer’ Aquarium | KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Zoo officials were unable to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for a new aquarium due to the pandemic, but they celebrated the progress of its construction on Monday by launching a public fundraising campaign called Make Waves KC.

Measuring 60,000 square feet, the aquarium will be home to thousands of marine animals, such as sea otters and rescued octopuses.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga, KCUR

The Kansas City Zoo’s new aquarium is slated to open in 2023.

The project is a legacy of outgoing CEO Randy Wisthoff, who is set to retire at the end of 2021 after 18 years. Wisthoff has long been calling for an aquarium at the Kansas City Zoo.

Prior to coming to Kansas City, Wisthoff worked as an associate director at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha where he witnessed the addition of the aquarium to that zoo.

“The biggest game changer, compromise maker we’ve ever made there is when we built the aquarium,” said Wisthoff. “It changed the complexion of the zoo forever. An exhibition like this is a destination exhibition. It could be autonomous. It could stand in any city like a stand-alone aquarium where people would come from miles away.

Exterior view of the aquarium.jpg

Courtesy of the Kansas City Zoo

A rendering of the new Kansas City Zoo aquarium.

Executives predict that the aquarium will attract an additional 300,000 annual visitors and $ 14 million in annual profits.

The project is the largest in the history of the zoo, with a prize of $ 75 million. Almost 50% of the aquarium will be paid for by taxpayers in the Zoological District, which includes Clay and Jackson counties. Kansas City is investing $ 7 million in the project and the rest is expected to be collected through private donations. Executives still had to raise around $ 5.5 million on Monday.

“I’m so proud that we can see part of his dream come true,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said of Wisthoff’s vision. “But more than that, we can see this world-class zoo and the world-class city that we all deserve, that our children all deserve, and that generations to come deserve.”

Aquarium tickets will be included in the cost of admission to the zoo, which is reduced for residents of Clay and Jackson counties.

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