Thirty years after it was first proposed, construction has begun on the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Discovery Pavilion, which will provide indoor space for Zoo education programs and community needs.
In 2013, the Santa Barbara Zoo begins a year-long celebration of the Zoo’s 50th Anniversary, of which Discovery Pavilion is a keystone. Groundbreaking took place on Thursday, August 30, 2012, and construction has begun.
It will feature two classrooms that can be combined into a large meeting space. A gallery features changing temporary exhibits, and a media library offers resource materials for teachers. The Zoo’s animal kitchen will move here, on view to the public; there will be offices for adult and teen volunteers, and for conservation, education and Human Resources staff. It will be accessible and ADA-compliant.
Discovery Pavilion will be a highly functional, ADA-compliant, easily accessible, conservation education facility conveniently located on the Zoo grounds and accessible for the entire community. It will serve as a hub for school field trips, Zoo Camp and other current programs, and allow for wider and increased educational offerings, including speakers, advanced volunteer training, teen programs and more.
Its greatest impact will be from the creation of two new classrooms providing much-needed space for teaching. Each classroom holds 61 students – more than twice the current education space's capacity.
“When combined into a single room for seminars, lectures, and group events, the space will hold 122,” adds McToldridge, “which is nearly five times the Zoo’s current maximum indoor space.”
Discovery Pavilion also will be available for use by private events, just as the Zoo’s outdoor areas are rented for weddings, company picnics and other gatherings.
Education is at the heart of the Zoo’s mission. Zoo programs reach approximately 40,000 students from the Central and Southern Coast each year, including 4,000 students from Title 1 schools. In all, nearly 250,000 children, teens, and adults participate in the Zoo’s formal and informal educational offerings each year.
Beginning in the early 1980s, there was discussion of a need for a dedicated education facility.
Since 1998, the Zoo’s formal programs have taken place in a small, over-used, portable construction trailer which was meant to be “temporary.” When the trailer was originally put into use 14 years ago, the Zoo’s education programs served hundreds of people – now they serve thousands.
“The trailer is no longer appropriate,” notes Zoo Director Nancy McToldridge. “It accommodates only 25 people, is outdated, and is located in an area that is difficult to reach for people using wheelchairs or strollers.”
The classrooms of the Pavilion will provide a focused learning environment that is essential to quality educational programming. For example, learning about California condors in a classroom setting will be enhanced by seeing the Zoo’s live California condors, conservation ambassadors, on exhibit.
“This sort of learning, coupled with an immediate foray into the Zoo, is a powerful and meaningful experience for children, teens, and adults alike,” says McToldridge. “This level of connection is what nurtures curiosity about the living world today, and inspires tomorrow’s conservation and environmental heroes.”
There will be a gallery for changing educational exhibits; a new, state-of-the-art media library for teachers; office space for conservation education personnel and other staff; and a lounge/office dedicated specifically for adult and teen volunteers.
The Pavilion will also house the Zoo’s new animal kitchen, which serves both nutritional and educational purposes. Visitors will be able to observe food preparation through a large viewing window, flanked by charts comparing nutritional requirements of humans and animals.
“Bringing all these features together in the new Discovery Pavilion directly aligns with the Zoo’s core mission of connecting people with animals in meaningful and impactful ways,” says McToldridge.
Construction of the new Discovery Pavilion began September 4, 2012 and is estimated to take 12 to 14 months. We hope you will join us for the grand opening in early 2014!
When entering the front gate of the Zoo, there is a pink building straight ahead, where the current restrooms are – that is the site of DiscoveryPavilion. The existing pink building will be renovated and attached to the new Pavilion construction.
The construction project is about 9,500 square feet, but the creation of accessible pathways and the associated gardens adds more area. Pathways in that area will be temporarily closed, but detours will be clearly marked and “add some fun,” according to McToldridge.
The Zoo is open during construction – as of 2012, the Zoo is open 365 days a year. There will be detours for guests to bypass the construction area inside the Zoo.
“For a short time, construction is near the Zoo entrance, which alters the entrance somewhat,” says McToldridge, “but the majority of Zoo exhibits are unaffected by the construction. Don’t be fooled by the construction; your favorite Zoo experiences await beyond the temporary fences.”
At this time, there are no animals off exhibit due to construction.
“The welfare of animals is always the top priority at the Santa Barbara Zoo,” says McToldridge. “Because of the Zoo’s location, the animals already hear freeway, train, ‘outside’ animal and visitor sounds every day, so noise is not a new thing for them.”
All animals will be closely monitored for any signs of distress, such as changes in their behaviors. If necessary, adjustments will be made to ensure their well-being.
The parking lot will be open, but construction vehicles may be parked there.
The Ridley-Tree House in the courtyard will be open during construction, and reached via Olive Road. The Wave restaurant on the hilltop is also open.
The main Gift Store, located in the courtyard, is open, as is the Explore Store near the Barnyard in California Trails, the Zoo Train Station store, and various merchandise carts throughout the Zoo.
Just as Zoo Members, families, and friends of the Zoo did back in 1963 when the Zoo first opened to the public, the community can have a hand in building the Zoo.
To date, the community has generously committed $7.2 million in support of DiscoveryPavilion. In total, the Zoo needs to raise $7.5 million for this priority capital project – we have just 4% to go to reach the goal.
“We are almost there,” reports McToldridge, “but the last few dollars are always the most challenging. The Zoo needs the community’s help.”