ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – While the ABQ BioPark was closed for months during the pandemic, a lot of work was being done behind the scenes. That includes renovations, upgrades, and even preparations for new and expanded exhibits.
The work being done is all thanks to gross tax receipts. Voters approved a 1/8 cent gross tax receipt that went into effect in 2016. Mayor Tim Keller said the GRT provides $255 million over 15 years and that the Biopark has spent about $17.4 million.
“We want to thank Albuquerque residents for their continued support,” said ABQ BioPark Director Stephanie Stowell. “Your support shows that Zoos, Aquariums, and public gardens matter, and can help be your local connection to conservation and nature.”
Some of the biggest projects guests could soon see are new exhibits. That includes a brand new Asia Exhibit. The $28 million project includes a new elephant observation deck where guests can watch the elephants work with their keepers. The project also includes new homes for orangutans, tigers, and other animals.
The BioPark is also getting an Australian exhibit. The $20 million project will include new homes for kangaroos, a crocodile, and Tasmanian devils. While the Biopark prepares for those upcoming projects, it also completed many other upgrades while closed during the pandemic. They improved sidewalks, renovated restrooms, and made some utility upgrades to help support the incoming exhibits.
“So, lots of little things like that that may sound like things you may not notice but please know that our staff, and our animals, and our plants know the difference,” Stowell said. The zoo also got new training walls to help keepers work and train with the zebras. The training walls cost about $26,000 and allow the keepers to train and build a relationship with the zebras so that healthcare procedures can more easily be done.
Outside of the zoo, Heritage Farm is getting a new agricultural program. “I think one that is sort of the surprise special star is going to be the Heritage Farm out at the Botanic Gardens,” Mayor Keller said. There is going to be a new agricultural program showcasing New Mexico’s farming history. There will also be a new train route connecting the Zoo, Aquarium, and Botanic Garden.
The Biopark has been busy. Stowell said it’s seeing about 92% attendance compared to 2019 numbers. The front entrance is currently being redesigned to allow for a higher volume of guests. That project costs about $110,000.
There is not a detailed timeline on when guests could see the new exhibits coming to the Biopark but Stowell said they will break ground this year. The state’s reopening guidelines now allow for the Aquarium to be open as soon as Friday. The Biopark said it is revisiting its reopening plans for the Aquarium and said it will reopen “soon.”
For more information on projects and a breakdown of costs, visit cabq.gov/artsculture/biopark/documents/biopark-grt-report-march-2021-print.