Potawatomi Zoo looking at new possible expansions

NOW: Potawatomi Zoo looking at new possible expansions

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—The Potawatomi Zoo could get up to $6.5 million dollars to potentially upgrade and renovate some of Indiana’s oldest zoos animal enclosures from the South Bend Common Council.

This would include a new lion habitat, concession area, black bear habitat, a pavilion, tiger habitat, some giraffe enclosure add-ons, and other general updates throughout Potawatomi zoo. The black bear exhibit is one of the biggest potential upgrades, which would allow visitors to walk up to a mountain-styled lodge and while sitting in the dining area for lunch, to watch the bears in the enclosure around you.

“For us to justify the work we are doing with conservation and education we’ve got to modernize the zoo. We cannot have a zoo in South Bend with square cages for our big cats, we can’t. We have to be a modern zoo, we’ve got to get away from the concrete floors and the caging and have these modern habitats. So, I’m confident that this is going to pass through because I think people really are recognizing how important it is for us to stay accredited to zoos and aquariums and provide amazing welfare for our animals. It’s all about the animals,” Potawatomi Zoo Director Josh Sisk said.

This is hotel-motel tax, and is aimed at a more regional level. While many community members and longtime South Bend residents make their trips annually to the zoo, Potawatomi zoo Director Josh Sisk tells me they were able to track zip codes this past year, and found that over 32,000 people came from out of state all across the country, and 400 different zip codes in Indiana alone. Sisk says their numbers are growing, meaning their amenities need to grow as well to meet zoo goers’ expectations and make Potawatomi a more modern zoo facility like other large zoos across the country.

“What it’s showing us is that when people are coming here to travel or do business, they are coming to our zoo. And just the more we modernize it, the more we do these upgrades. It’s not just going to be a great amenity for our local community but it’s also going to attract people that are coming here for business amidst the quality of life initiative, and it’s just going to continue to keep putting south bend in this region in the map,” Sisk said.

The giraffe exhibit is almost complete, and by summer time at latest, visitors will be able to check them out!

The South Bend Common Council met on Monday to discuss this ordinance in it’s first reading, and will reconvene in December to vote.

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