New details on Henry Vilas Zoo's Arctic Passage project - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

New details on Henry Vilas Zoo's Arctic Passage project

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Dane County is preparing to break ground on a big development at the Henry Vilas Zoo.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced Wednesday construction on the Arctic Passage exhibit is set to begin in spring.

The total project is expected to cost more than $10.5 million. $4.38 million of the design and construction costs will come from Dane County. To date, Friends of the Vilas Zoo has raised $3.6 million and is still aiming to raise at least $1 million more.

The development is expected to provide a new and more expansive habitat for polar bears. The seals will also move to a new home within the Arctic Passage exhibit.

"We also want to make sure to educate people about the animals and about some of the challenges they face and about some of the things that we can do right here to address those challenges, particularly as the relate to climate change," says Parisi.

Visitors will be able to get a better, closer look at the bears with an underwater viewing area to see how bears capture fish.

The county will fund the $1.6 million cost to build an indoor restaurant that includes a viewing window overlooking the polar bear exhibit. Proceeds raised by dining sales will be put in a "Forever Free Fund" to allow the zoo to continue updating and expanding exhibits.

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