Vilas Zoo begins construction on Arctic Passage exhibit - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Vilas Zoo begins construction on Arctic Passage exhibit

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Henry Vilas Zoo is officially beginning construction on its highly anticipated new exhibit.

The zoo held a groundbreaking ceremony today at the site of the future Arctic Passage exhibit. The project is building a new home for grizzly and polar bears, as well as an indoor restaurant. Executive Director for Friends of the Zoo Alison Prange says the new exhibit marks an exciting new phase for the zoo.

"The zoo has waited a long time for this," says Prange. "We're most excited to bring the bears back to Madison and take that side of the zoo from quiet, to thriving and vibrant."

The total cost of the project is estimated to be around $10.5 million. Dane County and Friends of Henry Vilas Zoo are working together to raise the needed funds. Dane County is providing more than $4 million toward the exhibit and another $1.6 million for the restaurant. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi says Arctic Passage has been years in the making.

"The effort has involved hundreds, if not thousands, of people from across our community coming together to create this exhibit that will live on for generations," says Parisi. "This is such a great example of a community coming together to really enhance the community for everyone in Dane County."

Friends of Henry Vilas Zoo has raised more than $3 million so far and are actively working to raise the remaining funds needed for the project. Part of their fundraising is an initiative called "Pennies for Polar Bears" which encourages children to collect pennies to be donated to the zoo.

Arctic Passage is expected to open in the summer of 2015.
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