Friday's 2014 budget proposal from Mayor Madeline Rogero includes a $10 million boost for the Knoxville Zoo. Leaders told 10News this is one of the biggest investments ever for the park.
"Our last contract is for $3 million, and that was for a five year period. So it's been some time since we had this sort of investment, that is over a 10-year development plan," said Lisa New, the zoo's interim director.
New added the money would go to three capital improvement projects.
- A $6 million Malayan tiger exhibit called "Tiger Forest." Scheduled for construction this summer, it would house at least one of the endangered animals.
- Construction for a new reptile presentation called "The ARC." It would replace the current exhibit, that maintains the zoo's snakes, lizards, Komoto Dragon, and other similar creatures.
- Expansion to the Clayton Family Kids Cove. This includes a new general-use amphitheater for the park.
Managers said the project is long overdue with some of their exhibits dating back to the '70s. They said the investment will bring in more visitors and therefore, more profits.
"All of those older habitats will go away and this will be a complete, immersive experience. It will increase the amount of time people will stay at the zoo and increase the guest experience," New said.
Of course city council will first have to vote on the mayor's budget.
If all goes to plan, construction the Tiger Forest exhibit would begin this summer.