Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo Master Plan

The Master Plan, which was developed in June 2010, is the culmination of many months of work. It incorporates visitor experiences and amenities, state-of-the-art animal habitats that reflect the latest husbandry knowledge, and a place to instruct the next generation of wildlife biologists.

The Master Plan provides for a dedicated service path around the Zoo with access to animal holding areas that leave the sidewalks to our guests and addresses steep walkways. Older vintage exhibits will be replaced with exhibits measured in partial or whole acres for large animals that live in social groups such as elephants, rhinos and lions. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Director and CEO Dennis Pate said, “We are all excited about the possibilities of building on a great zoo.”

Completed Projects

Gateway to the Wild Capital Campaign 
Gateway to the Wild was included in Phase 1 of the Master Plan. This $33-million campaign enhanced the visitor experience with the addition and improvement of the following guest amenities:

Future Exhibits

African Grasslands
The African Grasslands is a $73 million endeavor 28 acres in size, the largest project in Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's history. The full-immersion exhibit is being constructed in two phases.

Phase I, currently under construction and scheduled to open in its entirety by summer 2016, will include major exhibits for elephants, giraffes, white rhinos, cheetahs and impala, as well as mixed-species habitats, animal wading pools and interactive demonstration areas. A children's African pygmy goat petting area will also be open to visitors.

The African Lodge marks the center of the exhibit. It features the Tusker Grill concession area, a newly themed train station nearby and serves as a rental space for private functions and overnight experiences. Phase I also includes the Giraffe Herd Rooms, now open, and the Elephant Family Quarters, which is still being constructed.

Phase II, projected to open in 2017, will focus on an elevated site  showcasing Africa's top predators and their prey near the Skyfari terminal overlooking the existing Lagoon Valley.

African wild dogs and sable antelope will roam near a pride of lions that will be seen perched atop tall, rocky outcroppings. Skyfari riders will need to look up to see these majestic animals as they arrive for landing at the station.

A safari tent camp will also be nearby to provide groups and families the opportunity to stay overnight.

Asian Highlands
New anchor exhibit attraction winding through an existing undeveloped forest valley and hillside featuring the Zoo’s tiger collection. Other species will include leopard, takin, gaur, camels, red pandas, sun bears and birds. A food, gift and restroom cluster will be at the base of the main path for visitors. The Desert Dome Plaza will also be transformed with the addition of a Komodo dragon exhibit.

Coastal Shores
New sea lion and polar bear exhibits surrounding a North American coastal themed children’s splash zone and play area. This will be located adjacent to the existing carousel area on the site formally occupied by bears, swan valley and points north. This area will also include family changing areas, a café with food and drink, and trellis sheltered seating for parents and families.

Equatorial Africa
Expanding on the success of adjacent Hubbard Gorilla Valley, this project will add Central Africa forest dwellers such as okapi, red river hogs, and bongo, as an immersive outdoor forest trail experience. This will also include enhancing the existing gorilla food service and restroom cluster along with a new outdoor seating plaza.

Adventure Education
New Adventure Education hub, located northwest of and adjacent to the Desert Dome, with special classrooms linked to active hands-on laboratories, small mammal exhibits, and adventure play areas. This area includes a 350 student kindergarten and high school which expands our commitment to education which is a key component to our mission statement. A new dedicated Children’s Zone with rides, exhibits, play areas, splash zones, snack and gift, and a shaded plaza and garden with seating for parents. A snack and beverage and outdoor trellis covered seating where families can sit and watch their kids play.

Parking and Facilities Support

Infrastructure Projects

As the Zoo continues to grow, so does the continuous need to maintain and improve roads, pathways, utilities and other building support. Recent infrastructure projects include:

New Well: Installed near Simmons Aviary and Expedition Madagascar, a new well was completed and put into service on June 18, 2015.

Cold Storage: A new cold storage facility is set for completion this fall. Cold storage was formerly located behind the Desert Dome.

Maintenance Shop Road: Located near Pachyderm Hill, the gravel road provides employees access to the Zoo's maintenance shop. Completed August 2015.

Parking Lot Near Avian Support Center: A parking lot has been constructed near the new Avian Support Center to accommodate vehicles and foot traffic to the area. Completed September 2015.

To download the Master Plan Executive Summary, please click here.  To download the Master Plan Conceptual Framework, please click here.