DECATUR — Even as Decatur Park District cut the ribbon for a majestic new entrance at Scovill Zoo, officials reiterated their commitment to continue zoo enhancements.
The new concession stand, archway and accessible restrooms cost about $675,000, funding that included a $250,000 state grant. The project, which has been under construction since the fall, also included improvements to the wolf exhibit that allow visitors to view the wolves through a large glass window.
“People who haven’t been out here for a few years need to come and just take a look. We’ve got some new additions, and I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” said Chris Riley, president of the district’s board of commissioners.
The project comes as the park district continues its multiyear fundraising campaign to bring penguins to the zoo. That exhibit is scheduled to begin construction later this year, with the animals’ housewarming slated for 2013.
Zoo director Dave Webster said the zoo’s attendance numbers have risen steadily over the past few years, but people always like to see change.
“We’re not really looking at growing geographically, but we want to renovate,” Webster said. “Parts of the zoo are the original zoo that were built in 1967, and we think we can do better than what we built then.”
As for the wolves, Webster said they are likely to be pleased with the new viewing window because they have been socialized with humans since birth.
“They are very interested in what people are doing so the closer they can be to people, the happier they are,” Webster said. “… Little children are especially interesting to them because they’re very animated.”
The zoo is also slated to receive a new wolf pup near the end of the summer. It will become the new roommate for Tilly, a snow-white, energetic young wolf who came to Scovill in 2010.
The zoo’s other wolves are Thalia and Marius, who are both older than 14.
Scovill Zoo’s summer hours begin May 26. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily with last admission at 6 p.m.
Currently, the zoo is open until 5 p.m. on weekdays and 7 p.m. on weekends. Admission is $5.25 for adults, $4.25 for seniors, $3.25 for children between the ages of 2 and 12, and free for children younger than 2.