N.C. Zoo ready for expansion if lawmakers OK funding

Published 9:47 pm Sunday, May 9, 2021

ASHEBORO (AP) — The North Carolina Zoo expects to move forward with work on a new Asia exhibit this fall, if lawmakers pass a budget with the necessary funding.

“We’re ready,” Reid Wilson, secretary of the state Department of Cultural and Natural Resources told the News & Observer during a visit to the zoo in late April. “We’ve very hopeful.”

Wilson said he’s optimistic in part because the federal aid for pandemic recovery that will be coming to the state could help free up money for the expansion.

The zoo in Asheboro has plans ready and a contractor lined up to begin work as soon as the fall, the newspaper reported. The addition would be the first new continent developed at the park since its North America portion opened in 1994.

In his budget proposal released in March, Gov. Roy Cooper recommended appropriating the $46 million needed to build the Asia, which would feature animals such as tigers, Komodo dragons and red pandas and would also have a 300-seat restaurant.

Voters previously approved $25 million in bonds to fund the development of Asia and other zoo projects.