KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Zoo has officially kicked off its Make Waves KC project to bring a new aquarium to the zoo. The $75 million project was approved in November of 2020 and has already broken ground.
The 60,000 square foot building will hold 600,000 gallons of water, in an effort to immerse visitors in all areas of the ocean. It will be located between the Helzberg Penguin Plaza and the elephant enclosure.
This project is the vision of CEO Randy Wisthoff, who has been in charge of the Kansas City Zoo for 18 years and plans to retire at the end of 2021. He spoke to NPR in Kansas City and talked about his past experience of bringing an aquarium to the Omaha Zoo.
“The biggest game-changer, deal-breaker or maker that we ever did there was when we built the aquarium,” Wisthoff said. “It changed the complexion of the zoo forever. An exhibit like that is a destination exhibit. It could be standalone. It could stand in any city as a free-standing aquarium where people would come from miles away.”
The Zoo is still looking to raise about $5 million more for the project. Most of the building is being funded through private donations with $7 million coming from the city along with a 1/8 cent sales tax contribution. This is the largest project in the 112-year history of the Kansas City Zoo.
“We get to see this world-class zoo and the world-class city that we all deserve, that our children all deserve, and that generations ahead deserve,” Mayor Quinton Lucas told NPR.
Zoo officials predict that the new aquarium will bring an additional 300,000 visitors each year. Admission to the aquarium will be included with admission to the zoo. Current plans say the building will be open by mid-2023.