Campaign for Seals and Sea Lions

The New Como Harbor

Private support is transforming Como for the 21st century

The Need:  Improve Outdated Facilities

Everybody loves Sparky. 

The joyful antics of Como Zoo’s trained sea lion have delighted generations of Minnesotans. Day after day for sixty years, packed crowds cheer on the mascot of the state’s most popular cultural attraction. Sparky is as Minnesotan as a day at the lake or a buttered cob of corn. 

But Sparky has a great need.

Sparky’s current home, Seal Island, is a 1930s, retro-fitted monkey exhibit. The concrete facilities do not replicate the seals’ and sea lions’ habitat or provide context for the animals’ natural environment. The needs of seals and sea lions were not taken into consideration in the current exhibit, so Sparky and the other sea lions and seals move off of Seal Island to the aquatics building because the exhibit cannot hold water in the winter months. This leaves Seal Island empty and barren for half of the year. 

The public amenities for the Sparky Show are also quite Spartan.  The bathrooms were built in the 1930’s and can’t handle capacity crowds. There’s no shade for the animals and visitors on sweltering hot summer days. Long concession lines and limited seating make getting lunch difficult.  Sparky needs a new home.  

Private donations will make possible a state-of-the-art Seals and Sea Lions Habitat and improve the visitor experience. With just $2.1 million left to go we are asking the public to help bring in the remaining dollars. Ground breaking began this past February and the goal is to have all funds raised by January 2019.  So give today. Every Gift Matters!

The Vision:  World Class Improvements

The facilities’ re-design will improve the visitors’ experience and the animals’ training sessions and health care.  The new Como Harbor seals and sea lions habitat will continue Como’s 21st century vision of re-imagining the zoo that began in 2010 with Polar Bear Odyssey and Gorilla Forest.

A New Visitor Experience

Highlights include:

  • Year Round Exhibit Viewing – features heated salt water pools for the animals and provides public viewing of the animals.
  • Underwater Exhibit Viewing Area – where visitors can watch the animals swim below the surface of the water and see a close view of the animal care and training.
  • Shade – a new design that includes tree features that will provide protection from sun.
  • Public Amenities – upgrades that include new restrooms, restaurant and picnic areas with wheelchair accessibility.

Enhanced Animal Well Being

The role of zoos has evolved.  For instance, all of Como’s seals and sea lions are rehabilitated animals – wild animals that were injured, rescued, and rehabilitated but had a physical limitation that prevented them from being returned to the wild.

New designs include:

  • Two Large Pools – to increase the seals’ and sea lions’ swimming area and maximize their sociability and allow for underwater transfers from one area to the next.
  • Salt Water – will enhance the animals’ health and improve their environment. The water will not freeze which will allow them to stay in the same environment year round.
  • Shade Cover – to protect the animals from overexposure to the sun.
  • Improved Training Facility – a state-of-the-art training facility that will allow for better animal health care management.


Jackie Sticha
phone: 651-487-8225

Laurel Lundberg
Director of Individual Giving
phone: 651-487-8296

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