NC Zoo hits million-visitor goal, pushes ahead with expansion

Almost 5 a long time following it opened as minimal a lot more than a roadside attraction, the N.C. Zoological Park — now the world’s biggest organic-habitat zoo — lastly attained a extended-sought purpose in the fiscal year that just finished, with 1 million visitors coming by way of the gates.

“We’re thrilled to welcome so many company from North Carolina and close to the world,” Zoo Director Pat Simmons explained in a launch announcing the tally. “We are frequently striving to construct on our success by expanding our applications and generating our guest expertise better than at any time.”

The zoo, located on 2,600 acres just outdoors Asheboro, had hoped to hit the million-customer milestone in 2020, primarily based on history tourism shelling out in the state in 2019.

Then the pandemic hit in March 2020, and the park shut for 3 months in advance of reopening with limited admissions. The reduction in gate receipts that 12 months was considerable, ensuing in a funds deficit for fiscal 2019-2020.

But in 2021, as took place across the point out, guests returned, and they have continued to vacation in substantial numbers in 2022.

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American bison and elk roam at the N.C. Zoological Park just outdoors of Asheboro, N.C. in Oct 2021. Ethan Hyman [email protected]

Hope for added financial investment

Condition and regional leaders have lengthy hoped for a million yearly site visitors at the zoo due to the fact at that amount of yearly attendance, the region all-around the zoo is anticipated to attract more tourism expenditure this kind of as a luxurious or conference-place lodge and perhaps a companion vacationer attraction these types of as a drinking water or concept park.

With people added facilities, friends might system a weekend stay all over a zoo check out, paying further funds on eating places and other providers.

To assist make the zoo far more than a 1-day attraction, the park is relocating forward with programs for its new 10-acre Asia show with hopes of opening in 2026. Later on, it programs to build a part on Australia and then the Amazon.

The Africa section of the zoo opened in 1980, adopted by North The us in 1994.

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African elephants roam at the N.C Zoo just exterior of Asheboro, N.C. in October 2021. Ethan Hyman [email protected]

This story was originally published July 26, 2022 9:41 AM.

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Martha Quillin is a standard assignment reporter at The Information & Observer who writes about North Carolina society, religion and social problems. She has held positions all through the newsroom since 1987.