Riverbanks Zoo and Garden celebrates 40 years in Midla - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden celebrates 40 years in Midlands

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

40 years after opening, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden draws a million people a year from all over.

"I'm from Charlotte and visit the Zoo about 4 or 5 times a year," said zoo guest Gene Baucom. "I'm an amateur photographer and this is just like the best place in the world."

Riverbanks hasn't had an issue with popularity. But finances were a different story.

"As I like to say, on April 25th, 1974, the first person who walked through the gate plunged the zoo into a deficit," said Satch Krantz, CEO and President of Riverbanks Zoo.

Krantz actually started working with the Zoo before that first visitor. He's seen it all.

Krantz said for a six-year period the Zoo's future was rocky, but as people kept coming to visit the money followed, and so did the steady support from local government. 

"The people of the Midlands loved their zoo, and it caused politicians to kind of take a step back from their rhetoric and being critical of the zoo in it's early days to being supportive, and to eventually reach a point where we had a financial solution," said Krantz.

It was a financial solution that allowed many to grow up going to Riverbanks.

"I have been coming here since I was a little girl," said one visitor.

And introduce to their little ones.

"This is our first trip to the zoo since my son was born," said Amanda Bruce. "The last time I was here I was almost nine months pregnant."

A lot changes in 40 years. Everything from the way people wear their hair to what they wear.

And Riverbanks itself, however one thing has managed to stay the same: a chance to see your favorite animals up close and sometimes even personal.

Riverbanks is in the process of a $32 million expansion and WIS will be live morning Friday at the Zoo with an exclusive sneak peek at what's to come.  

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