ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The Saint Louis Zoo says it's likely to offer various safaris, "glamping," an observation tower and a museum at its WildCare Park in North County, now set to open in 2027 at a cost of $230 million.
The disclosure comes as a state board on Tuesday is set to weigh whether to issue $120 million in bonds for the project. And St. Louis County voters in 2018 approved a one-eighth of 1% sales tax increase for the project, which could generate $20 million annually, making the attraction free only for county residents, the zoo said Tuesday.
An admission price and prices for paid experiences will be shared later, officials said. The zoo is also using its cash reserves, along with those of the Saint Louis Zoo Association, plus philanthropic proceeds; local entrepreneur Jerry Kent and his family are major donors, as they fund a 61-acre conservation area at the park.
The zoo said it has begun demolishing a few older buildings at the 425-acre Spanish Lake site, acquired in 2018 for $7.1 million from the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562. A spokesman said the facility has a multiphase construction plan spanning the next several years and costing $230 million. Opening is set for 2027; the zoo previously said the attraction could open in 2026.
The zoo, which is funded, in part, by the public Zoo Museum District, said it plans to post bid opportunities on its website for contractors. One request for proposals active Tuesday was for the restoration of 145 acres of existing golf course turf, with the eradication of non-native plants a priority.
Attractions outlined Tuesday include:
- Two 30-minute safaris — one featuring a white rhino, the other a herd of up to 20 giraffes — from vehicles similar to the size of a school bus that can seat 30 to 40 passengers. During the safaris, animal experts will share stories and describe the behaviors of the animals as well as the care they receive and field conservation work done through the zoo's WildCare Institute, the zoo said.
- A walking safari experience on a multiple acre habitat allowing guests to "have an immersive experience as they wander through the habitat on a path with animals all around them."
- A 5,000- to 8,000-square-foot "zooseum" that will use augmented reality and virtual reality "to help guests feel how animals experience the world."
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