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Blank Park Zoo Announces $18M Capital Campaign

Blank Park Zoo Capital Campaign

April 19, 2024

The Blank Park Zoo is finalizing plans for an $18 million expansion and renovation through the “Expand the Impact” Capital Campaign — the largest capital campaign in Zoo history. The first phase of this campaign will include construction of undeveloped ground within the existing Zoo perimeter and renovation of existing exhibits for the Big Cat and Wild Iowa exhibit areas.

More than two-thirds of funding has been secured already for this and other conservation, education, research and recreation projects. Zoo executives and Board members celebrated the campaign recently during a donor recognition ceremony held April 8 at the new Joseph Stage.

Tiger at Blank Park Zoo 

Campaign Kickoff Made Possible by Generous Donors

At the kickoff ceremony, generous campaign contributions by top donors were recognized, including those who will later receive naming rights within the Wild Iowa and Big Cat areas:

  • The Ruan Foundation
  • Nationwide Foundation
  • Marjorie A. Foster
  • City of Des Moines
  • Destination Iowa administered by the Iowa Economic Authority

Representatives from the Majorie A. Foster Family and City of Des Moines spoke at the event about the importance of conservation, animal welfare and contributing to the legacy of Blank Park Zoo.

Chad Jester, President of Nationwide Foundation is especially excited about the opportunity to support the improvement and expansion of the eagle exhibit and the Blank Park Zoo. The “Expand the Impact” campaign highlights how public-private partnerships can ensure valuable cultural institutions evolve for future generations of Iowans to enjoy.

Over the past 20 years, The Blank Park Zoo Foundation has invested more than $30 million in expansion, additions and renovations over 20 years, even bringing in black rhinos with the addition of Jamaa Kwa Africa.

Blank Park Zoo Pathway

What Zoo Visitors Can Look Forward To

All ages will benefit from the Zoo expansion. See what’s in store below!

The Ruan Foundation Wild Iowa exhibit will feature:

  • A new seal and sea lion facility to accommodate an expanded breeding program, kitchen and food prep space and opportunities for behind-the-scenes tours.
  • A New saltwater filtration system that will reduce water consumption and provide improved animal welfare.
  • A new otter space to greatly improve the outdoor habitat with a deep-water pool, shallow stream and plenty of grass.
  • An accessible viewing glass tunnel and deep-water viewing area to enhance the guest experience of the otter exhibit.
  • Nationwide Foundation eagle exhibit space and building with an Iowa river stream.
  • A new viewing cabin with accessible viewing of a new species and aquariums featuring Iowa amphibians.

The Marjorie A. Foster Lion exhibit will feature:

  • A new lion conservation center with triple habitat, vertical climbing structures, winter accommodations for the animals and a facility to support breeding.
  • A new accessible viewing areas for lions from the Holmes Foster Events Center and public pathways.
  • Behind-the-scenes lion training space large enough to accommodate tours.
  • A new red river hog winter viewing.

Learn more about the expansion by watching the video below, which was posted earlier this week:

For more information about the Expand the Impact Capital Campaign, please visit the website.

Throughout Greater Des Moines’ (DSM’s) 11-county region, a thriving economic environment is attracting more Investors to do business. Learn more about other recent development projects in the region. Recently completed projects and big ongoing developments include the ICON Central Iowa Water Trails, DART expanded transit options, Ignit Sports & Fitness, MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex and The Grand Experience.

Anne Shimerdla

Anne Shimerdla began her career as an intern in the education department at Blank Park Zoo. After graduation, Shimerdla moved to Duluth, Minn. and became the Education Director and Animal Keeper at the Lake Superior Zoo. She then returned to Blank Park Zoo and has held many roles at the Zoo before becoming President and CEO.