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New Entrance and Exhibit at Woodland Park Zoo

May 8, 2010

KELLY HENDRICKSON
UW News Lab

Last Saturday, a small crowd gathered amid a spring drizzle to commemorate the grand opening of the new West Entrance of Woodland Park Zoo.

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott joked that he wasn’t sure if people were there “celebrating May Day or the opening.”

McDermott was one of a handful of officials who gathered to speak about the new entrance as well as the importance of the zoo in general.

Cam Ragen, chair of the Woodland Park Zoo Board of Directors, talked about the success of the project, and particularly thanked Bank of America, which donated $1 million. The project, the second of two phases, totaled $7.5 million and was entirely funded privately. Ragen also discussed what the new 58,000-square-foot entrance area offered, including parking for cars and bicycles, a commons area, more restrooms, and a second zoo gift shop.   

The new entrance will benefit the environment as well as visitors. Sustainable highlights include a rainwater filtration system to reduce stormwater overflow, according to a press release.

The remodeled entrance, located just off Phinney Avenue North between North 55th Street and North 56th Street, is expected to drastically cut waiting time for visitors at the ticket counters.

“For too long, a busy day would find our guests and members waiting in line for up to 45 minutes,” said Dr. Deborah Jensen, zoo president and CEO, in an April press release. “With the added efficiencies in the new West Entrance, waiting times will be cut down to no more than 5 minutes, giving guests a hassle-free start to their zoo adventure.”

When the (appropriately zebra-striped) ribbon strung across the entrance fell, a large cheer rose from the crowd as salsa music started up, announcing that the party was under way.

But the live band and party tables were not enough. The crowd quickly streamed through the new entrance and into the zoo while the officials hung back (seeming a touch unsure what to do with the oversize scissors now). What upstaged the party?

Meerkats!

It is possible you did not hear that the meerkats were coming, provided you lived outside the state of Washington. Well, after a 10-year absence, the ‘kats are back baby!

Running, scurrying, balancing on their hind legs and getting in disturbingly adorable fights — it was absurd how much fun it was to watch these little critters tear around their new home. They may be one of the best exhibits in the zoo now because of their extraordinary curiosity and playfulness. They’ll race up to stare at you, then tear around back and forth to get your attention. Children and adults alike squealed and pointed in delight, snapping photos while the little fur balls hammed it up. Go check them out, you won’t be disappointed.

The Meerkat Exhibition is open the same hours as the zoo, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Ticket prices are $16.50 Adult (13–64), $11 Child (3–12), and admission is free year round for both children 2 and under as well as zoo members. There are also discounts for seniors and people with disabilities.

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