The John Ball Zoological Society recently announced they will be bringing tigers back to Grand Rapids with the help of a generous community. The fund drive is Phase II of the Zoo Society’s “Restore the Roar” Capital Campaign. The projects include the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation Funicular and Forest Realm, the Bissell Tree House (announced earlier this year), new Amur Tiger Exhibit, new Grizzly Bear Exhibit, Visitor Welcome Center, and a Central Services/Commissary facility.
This major zoo expansion and renovation breaks ground this summer with expected completion of the Funicular, Tree House, Welcome Center, and Central Services facility in 2012, completion of Grizzly Exhibit in 2013, and completion of Tiger Exhibit in 2014.
The campaign began in 2010 with the largest contribution in the history of the zoo of $5 million from Bea Idema and the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation. The Zoo Society is pleased to announce as of June 23, 2011, the campaign has received $10,250,000 in pledges and contributions.
A spokesperson for the Wege Foundation said of the expansion, “Peter M. Wege and the Wege Foundation Trustees support this expansion because they know introducing children to wildlife teaches future generations to be good stewards of the planet.”
This announcement kicks off a community-wide effort to raise $1,750,000 to complete the expansion/renovation projects.
The zoo’s last tiger was moved to another zoo in 2009. The decision was made not to bring tigers back to the zoo until a larger more natural exhibit could be built for them. The new Amur Tiger Exhibit will anchor the west end of the hilltop expansion with the Idema Funicular and Bissell Tree House anchoring the east end. The tigers will have a green habitat nestled into a natural bowl in the hillside.
The Grizzly Bear Exhibit will be a total renovation of the grizzly bear/dall sheep exhibits. Those exhibits were built in the 1960s and remain in the heart of the zoo. Now, however, the two older exhibits will be totally demolished and one bold and beautiful grizzly exhibit constructed. The new exhibit will double the space for the zoo’s two rescued grizzlies and give visitors a feeling for the grizzlies’ lair.
The Welcome Center will add restrooms and other amenities for the zoo’s guests. A new gift shop at the entry will help create additional earned revenue to support zoo programs and services. The entire front plaza will be expanded.
If you would like to contribute, please visit the Zoo Society’s website at www.johnballzoosociety.org and click “Donate” or contact the Zoo Society Development Department at (616) 336-3036.