Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo
Backstory and Context
Lowry Park Zoo opened in 1957. The zoo shared the park with Fairyland, where concrete statues depicting fairy tales and nursery rhymes were along a winding maze of paths beneath the limbs of sprawling oak trees. This whimsical area was accessible via a large rainbow bridge.
As the wildlife collection grew, other attractions and rides were also added. By the early 1980s, the zoo featured a small roller coaster, a skyride, and a kid-sized train, among other kiddie rides. However, the zoo facilities were in need of repair and renovation, with the animals cramped concrete quarters so poor that the Humane Society called it “one of the worst zoos in America”.1
After several years of fundraising and with the help and support of mayor Bob Martinez and the city of Tampa, the original Lowry Park Zoo closed on September 7, 1987 for a $20 million reconstruction in which nearly all traces of the original zoo (including Fairyland) were removed and replaced with more modern facilities. The first phase of the revamped zoo opened in March 1988. Several additions and expansions since then have brought the zoo to its current configurationIn February 1988, the Lowry Park Zoological Society neared
its first phase of completion. The Zoo
was able to start its journey due to the City of Tampa which committed eight
million dollars to the project, in all the association planned on a $20 million
campaign. The first phase consisted of
the entrance, administrative offices, clinic commissary units, Free- Flight
Aviary, Asian Domain, Primate World, and the Children’s Village/Petting Zoo. The zoo continued to grow throughout 1988.
In 2001, “Stingray Bay” was opened, this allowed visitors to pet and feed the Zoo’s stingrays. In 2007, the zoo made several new additions to better serve the visitors, which came in record numbers. Five new exhibits were created including: “Ituri Forest” in Safari Africa; a colony of African penguins in a new year-round outdoor habitat, Penguin Beach; and a remodeled Asian Gardens exhibit area. In 2008, “Gator Falls” was constructed, a water flume ride.
Several significant animal births have taken place at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo: the Zoo’s first Indian rhino calf was born, its first and second Grevy’s zebra foals; and the Zoo’s first African white rhinoceros calf, all within 2009-2010.