Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens announced significant progress on its $52 million REZOOVENATION campaign to make improvements to the institution with a $2.25 million investment from VyStar Credit Union for the VyStar SkyScape.
The VyStar SkyScape will be the centerpiece of a new Zoo entrance as an iconic open-air roof structure covering 25,000 square feet and extending 50 feet high. The new entrance reimagines the guest experience, with nods to education and conservation efforts as the backdrop to premium hospitality in a multifunctional space.
“We are proud to partner with Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to create a truly one-of-a-kind entrance that can be experienced and enjoyed by everyone in our community,” said VyStar President/CEO Brian Wolfburg. “As the name suggests, the VyStar SkyScape will inspire residents and visitors of all ages to think big and to dream big. We look forward to the many great memories that will be made at the VyStar SkyScape.”
The VyStar SkyScape will not only include admissions, guest relations, retail, and food and beverage space, but also a stage, VIP lounge, meeting spaces, and full-service catering kitchen. The VyStar SkyScape will transform with state-of-the-art immersion screens that can change between educational messages to event visuals and more.
“The VyStar SkyScape welcomes guests in a unique way and will be first of its kind in zoos and aquariums. As a longtime partner, we are excited for VyStar Credit Union’s support as we solidify our efforts to inspire our kids, grandkids, and broader community for years to come. We appreciate and celebrate all our generous donors who have joined this campaign so far, and look forward to continuing this momentum as we share our plans broadly with the public,” said President and CEO Jeff Ettling, Ph.D.
Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver are the Honorary Chairs of REZOOVENATION and made the $3 million lead gift for Manatee River, the first impression habitat after entering the VyStar SkyScape. Florida’s most beloved and charismatic species will greet guests entering the Zoo, paying homage to the vibrant natural world surrounding North Florida. This mixed-species habitat will mirror Florida’s natural waterways and include native Florida fish, reptiles and birds.
As an expansion of the current Manatee Critical Care Center (MCCC), the Manatee River habitats will connect to four additional treatment pools, providing a total of 330,000 gallons of rehabilitation space. The Zoo is one of six federally permitted acute care facilities for manatees in Florida and currently can treat up to six manatees at a time. The expansion will allow the Zoo to treat at least 15 more manatees at a time.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has raised 75% of the $52 million goal from private sources and a $5 million match per year by the City of Jacksonville.
REZOOVENATION includes five projects overall, the first being the renovated parking lot and the second being the MCCC expansion and the new entrance. Other planned projects include a new education campus with expanded lion habitat, a redesigned elephant habitat, and the introduction of orangutans. The overall cost for the projects is estimated around $120 million. To learn more about the campaign and giving, visit jacksonvillezoo.org/rezoovenation