For Immediate Release: December 12, 2023
County Councils Approve Next Steps for Transformation of Top-Ranked Zoo
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is grateful to Richland and Lexington County Councils and the citizens of the Midlands for their overwhelming support of the Zoo’s request for a bond issue to help fund Phase Two of Bridge to the Wild. This next phase of Riverbanks’ vision for the future is set to move forward beginning with a year-long design process in the new year. The project will boost Riverbanks' economic impact to over $175 million annually, translating to tangible benefits for our community including job creation, tourism generation and increased educational and recreational opportunities.
Phase Two of Bridge to the Wild is a transformational expansion of the Zoo and Garden featuring a one-of-a-kind primate forest and restaurant along the banks of the Saluda River, a South Carolina nature preserve highlighting some of state’s most charismatic animals, enhanced lion and tiger habitats as well as an aerial tram system with a birds’ eye view of the Saluda and surrounding skyline.
Riverbanks already has secured $37 million in private funding for Phase One of Bridge to the Wild, which includes an all-new rhino habitat opened in August 2020, Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center opened in March 2023, a Komodo dragon breeding facility opening in 2024, a brand-new education facility opening in late 2025, and significant investments in the Zoo’s aging infrastructure.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is a shining example of the power of collaboration. The partnership between Richland County, Lexington County, private industry, and individual donors has helped fuel the Midlands’ thriving economy by supporting the growth and success of Riverbanks. President and CEO Tommy Stringfellow, says, "The annual economic impact and the quality-of-life that Riverbanks brings to the Midlands has been made possible by five decades of regional cooperation."
Stringfellow continues, "We are grateful for this next step and will continue to work with the Councils and other leaders in the community to explore ways to maximize community impact while minimizing cost to the taxpayer. The Zoo will celebrate 50 years in 2024, and we look forward to building a Bridge to the Wild to ensure a brighter future for our community wildlife and wild places."
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Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 3,000 magnificent and fascinating animals and one of America’s best public gardens. The Zoo opened on April 25, 1974, and for nearly five decades, has connected individuals, families and school children with the natural world. Riverbanks is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is recognized as a global leader in animal care and welfare, education, recreation, science and wildlife conservation. It is the mission of the Zoo and Garden to create meaningful connections and inspire actions that will have a lasting impact on conservation. For more information, visit riverbanks.org.