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Boom pushes up zoo cost

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by Roxanne Hooper

Construction begins next spring on a multi-million dollar Arctic animal exhibit at the Calgary Zoo, which at peak will employ about 250 trades people on site at one time.
Boom pushes up zoo cost

Expanding Habitats

Staff Writer

Construction begins next spring on a multi-million dollar Arctic animal exhibit at the Calgary Zoo, which at peak will employ about 250 trades people on site at one time.

Even before the project was unveiled earlier this month, however, zoo officials acknowledged the cost for this $100-million Arctic Shores project is expected to climb at least another $10 million higher than originally estimated.

Soaring construction costs for this project are being attributed to Western Canada’s construction boom, said zoo president Alex Graham.

When he revealed the large-scale model and architectural drawings of the exhibit, Graham described it as a replica of the ecosystem of the Canadian North featuring the largest salt water aquarium in the world.

“The Canadian North comprises 30 per cent of our country, yet remains a mystery to most Canadians,” he said.

“Only through educating the public about the serious plight of polar bears and other Arctic species will we be able to help protect them. The zoo is committed not only to helping people learn about and appreciate these majestic and noble animals, but to inspire people to take action to help save them,” he said.

The new exhibit, which is expected to open in 2010, will tell the stories of some of the northern animals – beluga whales, polar bears, seals, Arctic fox, penguins and many others – and illustrate the eco-systems through realistic habitats.

The visible space of Arctic Shores exhibit will be the same size of the playing field at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium. It will be the largest and most comprehensive exhibit of its kind undertaken by any zoo in the world, said Don Peterkin, director of planning and facility operations for the Calgary Zoo.

He noted that the project also includes a 500-seat banquet room, full-serve restaurant, classroom space, gift shop and a new entrance to the zoo.

“This is huge for us,” Peterkin told The Journal of Commerce.

In constructing this monstrous project, he noted the zoo is also striving for top ranking as an environmentally responsible, leading edge project.

The exhibit has been designed and will be constructed with hopes of achieving the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification.

The tendering process for the zoo’s Arctic Shores is expected to begin in March 2007, with actual construction set to start in April 2007.

The Arctic exhibit is part of the zoo’s larger Project Discovery expansion plans, which includes a new $10-million elephant habitat currently under construction.

Other plans include a $15-million upgrade to the conservatory that is also set to be unveiled in 2010.

With cost overruns currently being anticipated on all three of the zoo’s capital projects, Peterkin said the price tag is expected to be at least $140 million.

The province of Alberta is paying $35 million, while the City of Calgary is putting up $30 million. The zoo is currently looking for federal funding and is undertaking a massive fundraising initiative to generate the rest of the cash.

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