$30 million worth of renovations coming to Riverbanks Zoo - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

$30 million worth of renovations coming to Riverbanks Zoo

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Thirty million dollars from Richland and Lexington County are going toward making major renovations to Riverbanks Zoo over the next two to three years. 

According to zoo officials, that money will go toward expanding the parking lot to help get visitors in and out of the zoo much faster.

Riverbanks CEO Satch Krantz hopes the renovations will help alleviate the huge traffic backup that develops on I-126 during peak hours.

"We're going to try to do our best to eliminate that and make it easier to get into the zoo and have more choices that we can use on those busy days that we don't have now," he said.

The entry and ticket plaza will also receive a makeover with a brand new gift shop that is twice the size of the current shop.

"This will be, in terms of money, almost double the amount we've ever spent on an expansion," said Krantz. 

He said more than $30 million will go toward a series of improvements including an extra large gift shop, children's garden, and ticketing booth.

Sea Lions are coming back too, after a four-year absence. A new exhibit in the style of San Francisco's Pier 39, where they live amongst tourists will be a new centerpiece.

"We think that this is an opportunity for us to build an exhibit and show our guests that there are animals, wild animals, that live amongst people in very urban environments," said Krantz.

Krantz said the renovations come at a time when the zoo's popularity has grown from just 800,000 visitors a year to just over a million visitors.

"We're going to build something that I think will surprise a lot of people," he said. "I think it'll be a real jewel in the crown of what is Riverbanks."

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