APR. 02, 2018 - VOL. 54 No. 6

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Zoo brings the "Roar" to Sioux Falls
Community Appeals campaign for new lion exhibit launches

There was a time when the roar of the lions filled the air near the Great Plains Zoo. It is a sound that will return again soon, creating memories for new generations of Sioux Falls residents and visitors.

Starting April 1 and continuing through July 31, 2018, the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History will conduct a Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Community Appeal Campaign in the amount of $1.41 million to build a new lion exhibit in the Zoo's Africa exhibit. The project completes an already lush area with a watering hole for giraffes and zebras, as well as the nearby Rare Rhinos of Africa exhibit. The latest project, with an overall campaign goal of $5 million, will feature up-close viewing of an entire pride of up to 10 lions, including cubs.

The project also will expand viewing and café seating in the Maasai Market Café, helping the Zoo meet the needs of its growing attendance. Last year, the Zoo welcomed more than 300,000 visitors, a 230 percent increase from a decade ago. Construction is slated to begin in 2021, with the new exhibit opening the following year.

"Lions are one of the most asked about species at the Zoo," said Elizabeth A. Whealy, President & CEO of the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History. "More importantly, these charismatic 'big cats' are deeply endangered in the wild. Not only will visitors enjoy seeing the lions, they can take great pride in knowing that the Great Plains Zoo is contributing to the survival of this species."

Community Appeals Campaign

Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History
Big Cats of Africa exhibit

Goal: $1.41 million
April 1-July 31, 2018

Campaign Kick-off Press Conference
Thursday, April 18 - 10:30 a.m.

Adding high-charisma species, including a national award-winning snow monkey exhibit, has helped the Zoo welcome a record number of visitors. The Zoo's growing attendance is an economic driver for Sioux Falls, generating nearly $38 million in economic impact each year. The Zoo is also one of South Dakota's most-visited attractions, drawing tourists from every state in the country and expanding its reach to major metropolitan areas, including Minneapolis, on a consistent basis.

"The Great Plains Zoo is a leader in creating unforgettable experiences for children and adults," said Lisa Beacom, current board member of the Zoological Society of Sioux Falls. "The new lion exhibit will delight and inspire families for years to come."

While the Zoo has been successful at attracting out-of-state visitors, it has also positioned Sioux Falls as an ideal place to play and live. Employers need family-friendly attractions to recruit and retain high-quality executives. Dynamic attractions, like the Great Plains Zoo, make Sioux Falls competitive in recruiting businesses and employees. A recent survey reported that 83 percent of people in Sioux Falls think zoos are important to the quality of life in a community.

Fewer than 15 years ago, the Zoo was in distress. Thanks to new leadership and a strategic master plan that outlined a vision for optimal animal care and exciting visitor engagement opportunities, the Zoo has experienced a remarkable turnaround. Today, the Zoo cares for more than 1,000 animals from 137 species and is regarded as one of the best mid-sized zoos in the country.

"As a long-time Zoo board member, it's exciting to see the different phases of the Strategic Master Plan come to life," said Jon Pederson, former chair of the Zoo's board of directors and Zoo board member since 2011. "The careful implementation of this plan has led to dynamic growth in attendance, membership and organizational capacity."

Although steady growth has been the cornerstone of the Zoo's dramatic advancement over the last decade, continued forward motion is important to the Zoo's success.

"Continuing the momentum of our success is critical if we want to maintain a top-notch Zoo and continue to increase attendance," said Whealy. "Significant donor funding is in place, and enthusiastic 'Lion Champions' have put us in a position to execute a successful campaign. We deeply appreciate the Community Appeals Committee's confidence and realize that harnessing the support of our generous business community is critical to making the lions exhibit a reality."

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