Fans of the Nashville Zoo can barely contain themselves over the changes coming in 2015, as the zoo recently announced a multi-million-dollar renovation that will bring new exhibits to this family-friendly attraction in Nashville.
Spider monkeys and Andean bears and parking, oh my! The upcoming expansion is one of the biggest and most impressive in the zoo’s history. Think animals on display in innovative locations and more animal exhibits popping up on the unused acreage.
Nashville Zoo will soon include spider monkeys — Photo courtesy of Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
Today, the zoo sits on 188 acres, which are owned by Metro Parks and Recreation. Currently, only about 84 acres have been developed. Since it's one of the few zoos in the country with the ability to expand, once fully developed it will be the ninth largest zoo, by landmass, in the country.
Vital infrastructure improvements will include expanded parking, roads and walkways, a state-of-the-art animal hospital, a new entry plaza that will meet the demands of growing membership and general attendance and new exhibits featuring Andean bears, giant otters, penguins and spider monkeys.
There will even be a more intricately developed African Savannah and forest area.
Andean bears are part of the zoo's expansion plans — Photo courtesy of Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
To date, the zoo has received commitments totaling $28 million to begin a multi-million-dollar, multi-year campaign to fund the expansion. Mayor Karl Dean and Nashville Metro Council allocated $10 million this year to support the major new development and $5 million for next year. This funding will be applied to infrastructure improvements, and it's contingent upon the zoo’s ability to match the funds with privately raised philanthropic support.
“The zoo appreciates this public-private partnership with Metro and the support of Mayor Dean’s administration and the Metro Council, who have embraced our mission and demonstrated a serious commitment,” says Rick Schwartz, president of Nashville Zoo. “It is clear that Nashville’s leaders recognize the zoo’s contribution to our community as a key entity promoting progress and preservation, and as a vital educational resource and cultural destination with a significant economic impact.”
Moving forward, the zoo will focus on securing vital support from the private sector to meet the city’s challenge with a fundraising campaign scheduled to run through 2020. The long-term goal of the campaign is to raise money to build highly anticipated exhibits for gorillas, lions, penguins and more, as well as a guest tram system, restaurants, gift shops and other amenities.
Nashville Zoo opened in 1997, after closing its original location in Cheatham County and merging with the Grassmere Wildlife Park.
The non-profit Nashville Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and attracts more than 776,000 visitors annually. It's considered one of the top attractions in Nashville, and it's open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.