Want to get wild at your wedding? The new Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, once completed, will feature an event center that could host large wedding parties and involve some of the animals there.
“They could get married right there and have a lemur be the ring bearer for your wedding,” Zoo Director Dr. Adam Langston said. “You can have a kangaroo carry the ring down the aisle. There’s all different ways that you can have animals involved in your wedding.”
Langston said the new zoo is about 80 percent complete with the gift shop, administration building, the Safari Club restaurant and the event center, Savannah Manor, completed. While the zoo is planning a Nov. 15 opening, the restaurant is expected to be up and running by mid-July.
“We’re definitely excited about the restaurant opening,” Langston said. “It is going to be a full-service restaurant and initially it’s going to be open Monday through Friday for dinner only and Saturday and Sunday for lunch and dinner.”
The last day for the zoo’s current location on the eastside of State Route 59 in Gulf Shores at 13th Avenue will be Sept. 30. On Oct. 1 the staff will begin moving everything, including the more than 500 animals at the zoo, with an eye on the November opening date.
Hurricane Ivan in 2004 exposed the vulnerability of the current low-lying location. The zoo enjoyed the fame of an Animal Planet show “The Little Zoo That Could” as it recovered from the storm, but it was obvious to then-Director Patti Hall and the zoo’s board a move had to be made.
Clyde Weir and family donated 25 acres on the north side County Road 6 and north of the Intracoastal Waterway for the zoo’s new location. Additionally, the zoo board got a bond of $26.3 million to buy more than 70 acres adjacent to the original property. About $16.5 million of the bond is being used for construction of the new location.
In February 2018, the Gulf Shores City Council voted to give the zoo $1 million as an operating reserve. The zoo will receive the money once construction is complete, City Administrator Steve Griffin said.
“We’re going from seven acres and the first phase is 25 acres,” Langston said. “With the 75 acres we have beside it, we have room for expansion and hopefully we can have things that are educational, maybe recreational.”
A new animal attraction is a giraffe barn that will contain zebras as well where visitors can feed the giraffes.
A zipline over the whole park will be a two-seater built more like a “giant chair” than a harness, making the feature available to more people, Langston said. Other features will include paddle boats in the pond and cars on a track that visitors can ride all over the park. Food trucks will also dot the property.
“It won’t be just concession food,” Langston said. “We’ll have a place with hotdogs, hamburgers and fries, but there’s also going to be some different cuisines that are our head chef Greg Buschmole is putting together.”
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