November 15, 2010
Next year, expect to pay as much as $3 more per ticket - up to $11 for an adult admission - for a trip to the Virginia Zoo. While the price will rise, visitors can expect to spend about 45 minutes longer taking in numerous additions, spokeswoman Anne Vogt said.
The enhancements, many installed since 2008, include kangaroo and tortoise exhibits, lion cubs, rain gardens, restored wetlands, a train and an Asia exhibit, which is awaiting its inhabitants.
Improvements are planned for the veterinary hospital and an animal diet kitchen by 2014, which are necessary for the zoo's re-accreditation, executive director Greg Bockheim said. On the wish list, he said, is a renovation of the children's area that would add pony rides and a petting zoo through which visitors can walk.
Bockheim also envisions a campground based on a model he saw at the San Diego Zoo.
"Instead of going to the mountains to camp, people will be able to come to the zoo," he said.
The city and the Virginia Zoological Foundation cooperatively support the zoo and have invested nearly $20 million over the past three years, Bockheim said. Estimates on future plans will top $3 million. Most projects have been funded through donations from the foundation's capital campaign, Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim said.
City and zoo leaders hope the improvements will help attract about 500,000 visitors annually over the next two years. Last year, about 410,000 visitors came, Bockheim said.
The added features already seem to be paying dividends. Last year's attendance was a 25 percent increase over 2008. Zoo membership during the same period grew by 39 percent, according to Bockheim.