The Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley will be reopening to the public on July 24 with safety measures in place to protect humans and the animals, the zoo says.
The zoo has been closed since March 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, except for a weeks-long drive-through experience called Beastly Boulevard that ended July 12.
“Throughout these last months, the zoo has received an outpouring of kind words and support from our community,” Minnesota Zoo Director John Frawley said in a statement. “The zoo has been a treasured resource for more than 40 years and we are excited to be able to safely reopen and invite our guests to once again reconnect with beloved animals and the wonder of nature.”
The zoo will host a special member preview from July 19-22, and then starting July 24 it will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
All guests and members must reserve tickets online, up to 30 days in advance. Ticket sales begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 16.
According to the zoo's website, guests will be directed to move through the zoo in a one-way directional path (see map below), with visitors entering through the East ticketing gate and starting out in the Tropics Building, where they'll start their zoo journey by exiting to the outdoor trails or doing the indoor trails, which are optional.
Additional safety measures are being put in place to protect people and animals, as there have been some documented cases of humans transmitting COVID-19 to animals, the zoo says. The measures include:
- Staff and guests age 3 and up wear face coverings and staff wellness checks
- Limited guest capacity to prevent overcrowding and social distancing in all indoor and outdoor areas
- Protective barriers in some exhibits, including primates and large cats
- No feeding or touching of the animals, including the Discovery Bay tide pool, feeding goats at the Wells Fargo Family Farm and the Llama Trek will be open for viewing only
- Play areas, picnic areas and the carousel will be closed
- There will be no live animal programming, which includes Close Encounters and the Wings Financial World of Birds Show
- Some small indoor animal buildings will be closed, including at the farm, which will be outdoor viewing only for the animals there
- Select gift shops will be open with limited entry
- Food and beverages will be available, but with limited menus and seating
BMTN has reached out to the Minnesota Zoo for more information about its reopening plans.
Other zoos in the state, including the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth and the Hemker Park and Zoo in Freeport, have already reopened, while the Como Zoo in St. Paul has not reopened its zoo, only the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory.
Last month, the Minnesota Zoo received $6 million from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund as it was struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic.
Opened in Apple Valley in 1978, the zoo is a state agency that typically gets about one-third of its operating budget from the state, while two-thirds comes from earned revenue and contributions.
But since the zoo had been closed since March 14 due to the state's stay-at-home orders, it wasn't able to bring in revenue from ticket and concession sales. It was forced to lay off dozens of workers and had to cancel events, like the popular Music in the Zoo.
But despite efforts to save money, the zoo projected a $15 million revenue loss for the biennium, the zoo told BMTN in June.
Earlier this summer, the zoo had been "actively" working on phased reopening plans, but even with the plans in place, officials said it wouldn't be able to sustain long-term without support from the state "given the significance of the revenue loss during the closure."
The $6 million will replace roughly 40 percent of the zoo's projected revenue loss for the biennium, the zoo previously told BMTN.