Jacksonville Zoo renovation takes major step forward

Published on November 7, 2022 at 4:44 pm
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The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is 75% of the way toward its $52 million “Rezoovenation” fundraising campaign, with a $2.25 million gift from VyStar Credit Union to build a new entrance called the VyStar SkyScape.

In what the zoo calls a “first of its kind in zoos and aquariums,” the covered walkway with a 50-foot-tall roof and wrap-around “immersion screens” will house the ticketing area, a stage and a VIP lounge, all leading to an expanded manatee critical care habitat that will greet zoo visitors. 

“As the name suggests, the VyStar SkyScape will inspire residents and visitors of all ages to think big and to dream big,” VyStar President and CEO Brian Wolfburg said in a news release.

J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver are the nonorary chairs of the fundraising campaign and made the $3 million lead gift for Manatee River, the expanded manatee care area.


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The exhibit will combine native fish, reptiles and birds to pay homage to the vibrant natural world surrounding North Florida.

Manatee River will connect to four additional treatment pools, providing a total of 330,000 gallons of rehabilitation space. The zoo is one of six federally permitted acute care facilities for manatees in Florida and currently can treat up to six manatees at a time. The expansion will allow the zoo to treat at least 15 more manatees simultaneously, the zoo said.

The fundraising campaign includes five projects overall, the first being a renovated parking lot and the second being the manatee area expansion and new entrance. Other planned projects include a new education campus with expanded lion habitat, a redesigned elephant habitat and the introduction of orangutans.

The overall cost for the projects is estimated around $120 million.


author image Senior News Director, WJCT Public Media

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 35 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. 

author image Senior News Director, WJCT Public Media

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 35 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida.