January 9, 2009
Something that we all can cheer about.
By Bob Hammack
Former president of the Oklahoma Zoological Society
I suspect that just about everybody loves our zoo, and this is why the zoo continues to be the #1 family attraction in Oklahoma. According to Child magazine, it’s also the #3 most “family friendly” zoo in America. The zoo’s astonishing popularity was clear during the 2008 “Haunt the Zoo.” A new single-day attendance record was set with 16,377 attendees. The record for one week was also broken with 45,520 “trick or treat-ers” visiting the zoo.
This gusher of guests is only the latest example of the success achieved by the combined efforts of generous sponsor partners, zoo staff, zoo management, and the Oklahoma Zoological Society. OZS, also known as “ZooFriends,” exists for the purpose of raising supplementary funds for the zoo, as well as providing learning and leadership opportunities for civic volunteers who care about wildlife welfare and conservation.
Dwight Scott, the new executive director and CEO of the zoo, and Dana McCrory, the new executive director of the OZS, hit the ground running this summer. The results are impressive. Because of their enthusiasm and team attitude, a new spirit of excitement abounds throughout the beautiful 110 acre campus. Their passion is contagious. In chatting with employees, it is heartening to watch their faces light up with anticipation as they discuss the many stimulating additions on the horizon.
First up is the inventive $8 million Children’s Zoo, scheduled to open in 2010. Above all, our zoo is a place of wonder and amazement for kids. This new addition was designed by staff, volunteers, and the end users – children! The concept is both marvelous and magical. Kids will especially love exploring the attraction’s fascinating Secret Garden.
Next, is the zoo’s $23 million blockbuster exhibit, Asia, scheduled to open in 2011. The concept team is headed by Ace Torre, a celebrated and innovative zoo architect from Memphis. His vision practically reinvents the zoo which includes a spacious, state-of-the-art elephant breeding area. This effort is critical to ensure future success for the largest land mammal on earth.
Asia will make it possible for as many as ten elephants to someday call Oklahoma City their home. Luna, the zoo’s very first pachyderm, once swam in the lake adjacent to the zoo. In 1931, The Daily Oklahoman reported that “She would trumpet loudly as she bathed and could be heard throughout the park.” In the future, wouldn’t a small herd of pachyderms frolicking in the water at the zoo be something to behold?
As spectacular as 2008 was for the Oklahoma City Zoo, the future appears even brighter. This is important since revenue generated by visitations and philanthropic individuals or organizations are critical in promoting animal conservation, education, plus awareness and scientific research not just at our zoo, but throughout the world. Finally, the 800,000 guests expected next year will have a dynamic impact Oklahoma City’s economy — something that we can all cheer about.
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