December 15, 2022

ZooTampa unveils plans for new $125 million expansion, which includes Hillsborough River water taxis

Rendering via ZooTampa
South America riverfront area.
This morning, ZooTampa announced details for an ambitious plan to add new attractions, and expand the park all the way to the Hillsborough River.

The estimated $125 million plan would take at least 20 years to complete, and includes new dining and entertainment district, a new South America realm and expanded Africa and Asia areas.

“Our plans will energize the community, improving the quality of life for neighbors and area residents,” said President and CEO Joe Couceiro in a press release. “As ZooTampa embarks on an even more extraordinary future, we remain committed to transforming with the resilient Tampa Bay community, creating world-class zoological experiences, providing the highest standards in animal care, and inspiring action to be responsible stewards of the natural world.”

Up first for this massive expansion is in an expanded manatee rehab facility, which is slated to debut in 2026, and a new stingray exhibit opening next year.

But one of the larger aspects of the plan is the new South America realm. This area will take over the 28-acres currently owned by the City of Tampa that the zoo currently uses for maintenance in Lowry Park.

This expansion will allow the zoo to reach all the way to the Hillsborough River, via a skybridge over North Boulevard. Guests will be able to enter the zoo through a new gate in the the South America area, which will showcase new entertainment and dining areas, as well as a water taxi stop, sea lions, giant river otters, jaguars, and a variety of other rarely seen wildlife, says the zoo.

The Africa area will also eventually see some new additions, specifically lions, a new gorilla habit and redeveloped multi-species spaces for endangered African elephants, Masai giraffes, and white rhinos. Notably the zoo also plans for a "unique opportunity for guests to sleep within the roar of the king of the jungle."

The expanded Asia area will feature new overhead paths for unique views of Bornean orangutans and Malayan tigers, says the zoo.

The plan, which will eventually require the approval from city leaders, will require both public and private funding. The zoo says it has already received positive feedback from neighbors and nearby small business through surveys and focus groups. Future neighborhood meetings are also planned.

“Zoo Tampa is a community treasure, and we look forward to reviewing the parts of the proposed expansion that require City of Tampa approval,” said Nicole Travis, Tampa’s administrator for Development and Economic Opportunity.
Scroll down to view images
Africa Realm.
Rendering via ZooTampa
Africa Realm.
Asia Realm.
Rendering via ZooTampa
Asia Realm.
South America Realm.
Rendering via ZooTampa
South America Realm.
Sting Ray Shore.
Rendering via ZooTampa
Sting Ray Shore.

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