CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden's "unprecedented, historic announcement" is just that.
Thursday morning, Zoo Director Thane Maynard revealed plans for a $150 million expansion project during a press conference. It is the largest capital campaign in the zoo's history.
The "More Home to Roam" campaign coincides with celebration of the zoo's 150th anniversary, which is in 2025.
"What we need to do in the modern zoo is make sure our animals have the very best lives they can have," Maynard said.
Maynard said plans include expanding the Indian elephant exhibit by five times by moving parking off zoo grounds and developing a brand new "Walk About Australia" exhibit that people will be able to visit in two years.
Maynard also mentioned plans to add space to the black rhino exhibit and add an additional entrance.
A $50 million gift from Harry and Linda Fath initiates the expansion campaign, Maynard said. The Faths also donated to recent indoor gorilla facility expansion.
"The zoo is one of the jewels of our city, so we decided the Cincinnati Zoo has to be one of our transformative gifts," Harry Fath said in a media release.
$10 million of the $50 million will go toward a parking garage.
During the press conference, Fath handed Maynard a check for the initial investment.
"Here's a check for $10 million. Get that damn parking started," he said, bringing about applause and laughter from local media.
The zoo is continuing to raise the remaining $100 million required for the project.
Fath called on the community to contribute.
"I hope that the word gets out," Fath said. "We have to raise that other $100 (million) in small numbers. ... I want people to take ownership of the zoo."
Elephant expansion -- 2025
The main improvement is a large expansion of the elephant habitat. The new Elephant Trek will give the zoo's largest animals 5 acres of space by 2025. The zoo currently has four elephants in 1 acre of space.
The plan includes removing cars from the zoo grounds and adding trees, mud wallows, grasses, pools and streams.
"Our hope is to see a multi-generational elephant herd with up to 10 elephants roaming where a parking lot used to be," Maynard said in the release.
The exhibit also will include a children's play area with water elements.
Kangaroo kickback -- 2020
In Wildlife Canyon, officials plan to build a two-level activity course 25 feet up in the treetops.
Beneath the trees, guests will be allowed to walk about with red and gray kangaroos and wallabies in 15,000 square feet of grassy space. The walkabout area -- Roo Valley -- is expected to open in 2020.
The Tasmanian little penguins also will have a home with underwater viewing in the Australian exhibit.
Guests will be able to see the Steller's sea eagle and Andean condor exhibits from the path, which will accommodate people of all ages and abilities.
Room for rhinos -- 2023
The Rhino Reserve, which houses the zoo's endangered black rhinos, will be redesigned to include multiple outdoor spaces.
The critically endangered species is mostly solitary. The expansion will give the rhinos more than double their current space, providing for more alone time.
Plans for the area include a larger, mixed species yard, more moats and viewing decks for the public.
For the people
The new Entry Village will include 12 new ticket windows, more family restrooms and storage space for strollers and wheelchairs as early as 2020. A calming room for guests with developmental disabilities will be added.
A new multi-tier beer garden will be added behind the Watering Hole, where guests can see Roo Valley, beginning in 2020.
An 1,800-car parking garage will eliminate parking on zoo grounds and make way for the elephants by 2023.
Other habitat improvements
Zoo officials also will modify the polar bear and sea lion exhibits.
The Kroger Lords of the Arctic habitat will see isolated denning for females, creating separate habitat areas for males and females and making the environment more conducive to breeding.
The sea lion habitat will see more shaded area, access to the main pool from the back of the exhibit and water filtration improvements.
Zero net energy
The zoo also could drive down non-potable water use to zero by capturing 100 percent of storm water and reusing it in habitats, diverting it away from the city's combined sewer system.
Plans additionally include efficient systems and advanced energy options -- solar, wind and biomass.
See a rendering of the full master plan below: