Como Harbor, a $20.38 million reinvention of Como Zoo’s seals and sea lions habitat, is coming into view. Since the official groundbreaking last spring, the heart of Como’s campus has been dug up and dismantled to make room for a transformative, year-round aquatic habitat that promises to dramatically improve the care Como Zoo can provide its seals and sea lions, while creating unforgettable views and face-to-face experiences for Como’s two million annual visitors.
If you have visited Como Park Zoo and Conservatory this past summer, you will have noticed a whole new exhibit of dirt, mud, and construction equipment. “Guests, especially the kids, have had their nose to the fence watching the heavy equipment and trucks all summer and they have been so interested in what’s been going on”, shares Michelle Furrer, Como Campus Director.
To date, the most challenging parts of the project involve the utility work. “We’ve been dealing with 80 year old utilities underground, from the piping under the former Monkey Island to rebuilding sanitary lines. In addition, a new filtration building for Como Harbor is positioned opposite the service road, which is the main artery for deliveries and staff”, explains Paul Oberhaus of CPMI, the construction project management company. “We will continue to work over the winter building the filtration building, restrooms, and food service. After this work is complete, people will really start to see the site take shape next spring.”
Pulling together the resources to reimagine Sparky’s new home has been a statewide effort, made possible by $15 million in public funding approved by the Minnesota State Legislature in May 2017. Como Friends, the nonprofit partner of Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, is raising $4.39 million for the project through gifts from foundations, corporations and individuals. Como Friends invites the community to dive in to support the new Como Harbor habitat on Give To The Max Day, November 15th. A generous donation from Horton will match community gifts dollar for dollar up to a total of $30,000 on Give To The Max Day. Como Harbor is the most recent improvement made possible through the public/private partnership between Como Friends, the City of St. Paul and the MN State Legislature, continuing the effort to bring visitors up-close and personal to animals while updating animal habitats to meet all regulations and best practices.
“We’re thrilled by the positive response we’re getting from the community for this campaign,” says Como Friends’ President Jackie Sticha. “Minnesotans have a multi-generation connection to the Sparky the Sea Lion tradition, and we’re honored by their generosity in support of improvements such as Como Harbor. Private support is elevating and enlivening the great public treasure we have in Como Park Zoo and Conservatory while keeping it free of charge so all Minnesotan’s have access.”
The project remains on budget and is scheduled to open in 2021.