While you’ve been away, Como’s made big progress on construction of Como Harbor and renovation of the Aquatic Animals building

When it’s safe to return to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, visitors may be surprised by how much has changed on campus since early spring.

“If there’s a silver lining to this time of uncertainty at Como, it would be that it’s given construction crews a chance to make great progress on Como Harbor without inconveniencing our guests,” says Jackie Sticha, president of Como Friends. “Construction was allowed to move forward as an essential industry. Each contractor working on the projects at Como developed a safety plan that allowed them to keep working while following all the guidelines for safe social distancing. The result is that construction never stopped, and we’re making great progress on this important improvement for Como Zoo’s seals and sea lions, and for the people who love to see them.”

This spring, roughly 80 percent of the perimeter wall for the large outdoor pool in the state-of-the-art seals and sea lions habitat was complete. Once the wall is finished, work will begin pouring and curing the concrete floor of the pool.  Work on the new amphitheater has also begun.  The concrete footings have been poured and work will begin soon on the rows in the amphitheater, with each row of concrete seating being poured moving from the bottom to the top. 

Como Harbor’s new underwater viewing structure is also nearly complete with finishing work underway on the interior. By mid-summer, the shade structures for the amphitheater will also begin to take shape. 

Meanwhile, the face-lift for the Aquatic Animals building is also moving forward. The tanks that were once in the center of the building have been removed, and a new concrete floor is now set to welcome the new giant Pacific octopus exhibit. Utilities and life support for the new tanks in the renovated space are being installed in the basement of the building, while upstairs, interior painting has begun.

“Not having visitors on campus this spring has allowed construction crews to extend their days, making good progress on the two projects” Sticha explains. “But all this work is really about being ready to welcome our visitors back to an even better experience of Como Zoo.”

Funding for the $20 million Como Harbor habitat was provided by the taxpayers of Minnesota and private contributions to Como Friends. This public/private partnership is also funding the renovation of the Aquatic Animals building. Como Zoo’s seals and sea lions are expected to move into their new digs in late summer, with a public unveiling of the project yet to be determined. “We know that our community is really looking forward to seeing how we’re transforming the heart of Como Zoo, so when Como Harbor is complete, and it’s safe to gather again, we can’t wait to welcome visitors to experience Como Harbor,” says Sticha. 

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