UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – Construction crews are hard at work over at the Utica Zoo as the process of building the new welcome center continues. The team broke ground back in June 2022, and Andria Heath, Executive Director of the Utica Zoo tells me this facility will be a bigger and better experience.

“Previously we had a welcome center that was around 960 feet it was very modest it didn’t give the sense of we’re here we’re for kids in the parking lot,” said Andria Heath, Executive Director of the Utica Zoo.

The new building will be funded by the City of Utica through $2 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation provided a grant of $500,000. In addition to this, the zoo received private funding from Joan Sinnott. The facility has been designed by Nelson Associates Architectural Engineering and will be around 5,000 square feet, with a number of new additions to enhance the experience of visitors.

“We’ll have two classrooms, event center areas an atrium for visitors to arrive, then two family-style restrooms, and then the back of that building will be a nice courtyard that the crowd can spill over if we’re having a rented event like a wedding or a corporate rental, etc.,” said Heath.

The facility has had some setbacks due to issues with infrastructure and the supply chain. However, visitors can expect the site to be officially open by January 1 of 2023.