‘Penguin Chill’ exhibit opening delayed after going over budget

The otters have made their debut, but what about the BioPark’s highly-anticipated new penguins?

KRQE News 13 has learned the Penguin Chill exhibit will now be opening about a year after its anticipated ribbon-cutting because the project went over-budget.

Ask any family at the Rio Grande Zoo if they’re excited to see penguins, and they all say “yes.” It would be an Albuquerque first, but it’s taking a little longer than expected to make it happen thanks to some changes that brought extra costs.

Not everyone seems to mind, though.

“No rush as they long as they have a good habitat, that’s what matters the most. That’s probably what’s taking the time,” the Juarros family from Sapello, N.M., said.

The project, which started under former Mayor Richard J. Berry, was originally set to open this past April. But the three penguin species, the Macaroni, King and Gentoo penguins, will actually arrive to Albuquerque about a year later than expected.

The reason is because the city’s Department of Municipal Development ran into a few extra costs when it made some changes to the plans during the ongoing construction phase. A spokesperson for DMD says about $632,000 worth, to be exact.

That bumped up the total cost of the project from $12.4 million to $13.1 million.

“Some of those change orders include an educational component… We wanted to save a Cottonwood tree that was next to the exhibit… And then there’s also going to be like a glass floor. I don’t want to give too much away, but there will be a glass floor in the exhibit and we wanted one large piece of glass for the glass floor, but the design came back and said we need two pieces,” Johnny Chandler, with DMD, said.

There’s smaller changes as well, he explained.

The city says it always has a 10 percent contingency built into its projects, and the $632,000 over-budget is still within that range.

With these change-related delays, the DMD expects to finish construction later this year. At that point, the exhibit is handed off ot the zoo staff so that the penguins can get acclimated to their new home before making their public debut.

The Penguin Chill exhibit was paid for by the BioPark tax passed by city voters.

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