Zoo Breaks Ground For New Experience

Friday afternoon Rolling Hills Zoo broke ground on their new Pride of the Prairie experience, ushering in a new era at the zoo.

According to the zoo, with the existing lion habitat in the background, Rolling Hills Zoo’s Executive Director, Ryan VanZant, welcomed the crowd to what will soon be the entrance of the new Pride of the Prairie cave and 180 degree viewing area which will look out into the lions’ new habitat.

“Lions are found in the savanna of Africa, which are grasslands with a few more trees, so what better place for lions to call home than the grasslands here at Salina, Kansas,” shared VanZant.  In referencing the new cave, VanZant noted, “being in a cave-like structure with a 400 lb. lion just feet above your head gets an emotional response.”  Inside the cave “keepers will do trainings at the training window and the lions will be so close that you’ll be able to see the lion’s eyelashes blink and smell their hot breath.  This new habitat will more than double their current space – to nearly 20,000 sq. feet, and add an additional indoor space and off-exhibit housing.  We also look forward to introducing a male lion to the pride and having cubs in the future.”

“Charlie always wanted to share his love of the animals with kids, family and friends,” shared Carolyn Walker, RHZ board member and wife to RHZ founder, Charlie Walker.  “From the day he said, ‘I think we will open a zoo’ until the day he opened it, I knew it was never going to be a project that would be stagnant.  It would change, evolve and grow, which it has.  Two hundred and forty-seven donors in Salina and the surrounding area helped make this project happen and we are very grateful and thankful for everyone’s support.  I know he (Charlie) would be so proud, and if he was here today he would be smiling.”

To build life into our team members’ dreams, our customers’ visions and our communities’ future, describes the perfect project for Jason Gillig, Hutton Construction.  “I can’t’ think of a project that meets those criteria much better than working here for Rolling Hills Zoo on this lion exhibit, for the community of Salina, and really the world,” remarked Gillig.

“We were really excited that they reach out to us and gave us an opportunity to help them design this incredible exhibit,” remarked Maggie Gillam, Jones Gillam Renz Architects.  “We look forward to working with everyone here at Rolling Hills Zoo as well as Hutton Construction as we watch this develop over the next few months and we look forward to welcoming you all back here in the spring as we open it back up.”

Completion of the Pride of the Prairie experience is expected to be Spring of 2022.

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Photo courtesy of Rolling Hills Zoo.   Pictured left to right:  Jason Gillig, Hutton Construction; Carolyn Walker, RHZ Board Member; Carolyn Wedel, RHZ Board Member; Travis Young, RHZ Board Member; Nate May, Jones Gillam Renz Architects; Ryan VanZant, RHZ Executive Director; Anna Klaas, RHZ Keeper; and Mandi Graber, RHZ Board Member.