Blank Park Zoo
Blank Park Zoo

Open Daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
$20 adults, $15 children

View All Rates ›

Open Daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
$20 adults, $15 children

View All Rates ›

Blank Park Zoo Announces $18M Capital Campaign in New Era of Impact

April 8, 2024

Blank Park Zoo Announces $18M Capital Campaign in New Era of Impact

Major Donor Gifts Announced at Kickoff Ceremony

(Des Moines, Iowa – April 8, 2024) An $18 million expansion and renovation effort for Blank Park Zoo — the largest in Zoo history — kicks off today through the “Expand the Impact” Capital Campaign.

At a donor recognition ceremony at the new Joseph Stage, Zoo executives and Board members laid out the vision for an exciting new era for the beloved Iowa attraction. With more than two-thirds of the funding secured for an array of conservation, education, research and recreation projects, there was a large turnout to celebrate this first step in a much larger master plan for Blank Park Zoo.

“For nearly 60 years, Iowans of every age have come to Blank Park Zoo to explore and learn about all kinds of animals,” said Anne Shimerdla, president and CEO. “With our Expand the Impact Capital Campaign, we now have the ability to ignite wonder for all Iowans, improve accessibility around the Zoo grounds, make continual animal welfare upgrades and implement expanded conservation and sustainability practices.”

The first phase of the campaign has secured funding from major donors, enabling the Zoo to finalize plans. Construction is expected to begin this summer on the Big Cat and Wild Iowa exhibit areas. These exhibit areas will be built within the existing Zoo perimeter on undeveloped ground and through renovation of existing exhibits.

Top donors were recognized at the kickoff ceremony for their generous contributions to the campaign and will later receive naming rights within the Wild Iowa and Big Cat areas.

  • The Ruan Foundation  
  • Nationwide Foundation
  • Marjorie A. Foster
  • City of Des Moines
  • Destination Iowa administered by the Iowa Economic Authority

Representatives from Nationwide Foundation, the Majorie A. Foster Family and City of Des Moines were on hand to talk about the importance of conservation, animal welfare and contributing to the legacy of Blank Park Zoo.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to help support the improvement and expansion of the eagle exhibit and the Blank Park Zoo given our long history in the state," said Chad Jester, president of the Nationwide Foundation. "This campaign highlights the importance that public-private partnerships can have in ensuring that valuable cultural institutions evolve for future generations of Iowans to enjoy."

Over the past 20 years, the Blank Park Zoo Foundation has invested more than $30 million in expansion, additions and renovations, the most recent occurring in 2012 with the addition of Jamaa Kwa Africa, which enabled the Zoo to bring in black rhinos.

The Ruan Foundation Wild Iowa exhibit will feature:

  • A new seal and sea lion facility to accommodate an expanded breeding program, kitchen and food prep space and opportunities for behind-the-scenes tours.
  • New saltwater filtration system that will reduce water consumption and provide improved animal welfare.
  • New otter space to greatly improve the outdoor habitat with a deep-water pool, shallow stream and plenty of grass.
  • An accessible viewing glass tunnel and deep-water viewing area to enhance the guest experience of the otter exhibit.
  • Nationwide Foundation Eagle exhibit space and building with an Iowa river stream.
  • New viewing cabin with accessible viewing of a new species and aquariums featuring Iowa amphibians.

The Marjorie A. Foster Lion exhibit will feature:

  • New lion conservation center with triple the habitat, vertical climbing structures, winter accommodations for the animals and a facility to support breeding.
  • New accessible viewing areas for lions from the Holmes Foster Events Center and public pathways.
  • Behind-the-scenes lion training space large enough to accommodate tours.
  • New red river hog winter viewing.

For more information about the Expand the Impact Capital Campaign, please visit the website.


About Blank Park Zoo

Blank Park Zoo, located in Des Moines, serves about 500,000 visitors each year from all 99 counties in Iowa and surrounding states. It features 2,500 animals and provides educational programs to more than 100,000 people annually. For almost 60 years, Blank Park Zoo has been a destination for fun and a place where visitors gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world.

« Back

© 2024 Blank Park Zoo. All rights reserved.