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John Ball Zoo Keeps Growing with New Exhibits and Fun


Every day is an exciting day around the John Ball Zoo.

Not only are people and families enjoying the exhibits and beauty of the zoo, but they’re discovering the new fun.  The zoo is wrapping up phase 1 of a multi-million dollar construction project this week that took roughly 2 years of planning and construction for what will be a $12.8 million investment.

There are many new additions to the zoo.  Among other things, the zoo has added a new gift shop and welcome garden near the front entrance, a concession stand in the heart of the zoo, and the new Bissell Tree House & Rental Facility.

Some of the biggest excitement has been generated by the new, three-car Funicular.  The Funicular is a sort of train on an elevated track that takes visitors though the forest for a 3 to 4 minute ride up the hill to the beautiful Idema Forest Realm. The Funicular is the only one in Michigan and only one of a few in the United States.

The Tree House is situated on one of Grand Rapids’ highest points and will serve as a event space for private and corporate events. It includes a catering prep kitchen, floor to ceiling windows.  Look for lots of weddings, great parties and the like.

Also this summer, they intend to complete a children’s tree house for children to climb and experience the outdoors in a similar way that some of the animals do.

All of this increases the zoo footprint by 43%!

The John Ball Zoo is 100 years old, and now able to expand to where people have never gone before.

The zoo is also planning a complete renovation of the grizzly bear exhibit in 2013. It will take what is now mostly concrete wall and flooring and make the bear’s home more like it would be in nature.


The following year John Ball Zoo has plans to “Restore the Roar” and bring back a new and improved tiger exhibit.  There will be two habitats.   A larger habitat at the top of the hill and then at the beginning of the Forest Realm Trail there will be a flex habitat. Having two different habitats for the tigers will allow them to move the tigers around like they would be in the wild and they are hoping to have a tiger trail right along a little ridge area so they can move at different times of day so people can see them up and close.

There is still some fund raising to do, as they need another $1.5 million to complete the Tiger exhibit.





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