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Hogle Zoo plans $80 million-plus in upgrades

Utah's Hogle Zoo will spend between $80 million and $100 million during the next 10 to 20 years to renovate its facilities.

Zoo officials are planning the upgrades as part of a "master plan" to capitalize on the expected influx of people to Utah in the coming years, Craig Dinsmore told the Salt Lake Rotary Club Tuesday."Families are going to look more and more for safe, fun value-priced activities," said Dinsmore, the zoo's executive director.

Many of the zoo's facilities are 20 to 30 years old, Dinsmore said.

Rocky Shores, the polar bear habitat, is one of the older structures.

"Our exhibit really doesn't do (the polar bears) justice," Dinsmore said.

The exhibit will be modified, enabling visitors to watch polar bears swim below the surface of the water. Sea lions and penguins will also be added to the habitat.

Among other changes are:

A diversity-of-life and education center will replace the small-animal building. Guests will learn about animals in a classroom.

A pioneer trail, featuring indigenous Utah animals -- grizzly bears, moose and river otters -- will be developed.

The African Savanna with giraffes, zebras and rhinos will be expanded to three times its current space.

The feline building will be converted to a conservation research center. Red pandas, pheasants and big cats will be moved to new hillside habitats.

A "zoo lodge" with gift shop, new train depot and special events pavilion will replace the entry plaza.

The entry plaza must be upgraded to meet the needs of 750,000 annual visitors, Dinsmore said. The zoo anticipates its yearly attendance to jump to 1 million within five to 10 years.

Dinsmore shared the zoo's master plan to enhance "recreation, conservation and education" with 180 Rotarians at the Marriott Hotel.