ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – To say the Albuquerque zoo is betting on penguins is an understatement.
With attendance sagging, the city hopes the $12 million Penguin Chill exhibit will mean more crowds.
Now, KRQE News 13 is getting a better look at the attraction with a virtual tour of the exhibit. It shows the penguins will have one fancy home.
The interior of the exhibit will have the feel of an ice-breaker ship.
Once it opens in the spring, keeping the penguins cool in the desert won’t come cheap.
“The largest single project we have is the Penguin Chill project,” said JT Allen, Albuquerque BioPark Chief Executive.
With stagnant attendance numbers, the BioPark Zoo is putting its money on penguins.
“The building itself is going to give you a feeling of ice when you look at it,” Allen explained.
New fly-through video of the $12 million Penguin Chill exhibit shows what will be the most sophisticated exhibit at the zoo — and probably the costliest to run.
Allen says the idea is transporting visitors to another part of the world.
“We’ll try to make it feel like you’re down at a substation, scientific area down in southern Antartica,” Allen explained.
Come spring, roughly 30 penguins will call the Land of Enchantment home, likely traveling from Seaworld San Diego and Seaworld Orlando.
It will feature King, Macaroni and Gentoo penguins.
“Where do you get a penguin or where do you get a tiger or where do you get any animal? And believe it or not, you Fedex them,” Allen said.
The nearly 15,000 square foot Penguin Chill exhibit will feature above and under water viewing areas, a glass floor, a 75,000 gallon pool and a snow machine.
“The keepers that actually go inside they are going to have to have coats, parkas, gloves and things like that to work with the penguins,” Allen said.
Penguin Chill will stay at a brisk 45 degrees on the surface and about the same underwater.
With the extra staff needed and the cooling and power costs, the pricetag to keep the penguins healthy and comfortable in the desert could run about $200,000 a year.
A pretty penny, but something the zoo is betting on.
Penguin Chill is expected to open next spring.
There’s also a new otter exhibit going in at the aquarium that should open in January.
The $12 million for the penguin exhibit is coming from the Biopark tax approved by voters in 2015.
The tax money can only cover construction costs, it can’t be used to run an exhibit.