Sparky the Sea Lion, a staple of the Como Park Zoo, will have a new home come fall of 2019.
The Como Park Zoo will break ground on a $20 million seal and sea lion exhibit Thursday.
The “Como Harbor” exhibit includes habitat for eight seals and sea lions, amenities for year-round outside activity and an underwater viewing center.
“We’re over the moon … to begin this project. It’s been a long time coming. We’re excited to get the shovels in the ground,” said Matt Reinartz, a spokesperson for the Como Park Zoo.
The exhibit will feature:
The original exhibit was built in the 1930s as a monkey habitat, and was then “retrofitted” for seals and sea lions in the 1970s.
Como Park staple, the “Sparky Show,” has been performed at the zoo since 1956, drawing nearly 500,000 students annually to the show.
The Minnesota Legislature funded $15 million of the project in its 2017 bonding bill, and the additional $5 million needed for the project was raised by Como Friends, a nonprofit partner of Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.
Visitors can still view Sparky and other sea lions and seals in the Marine Mammal Building, where they’re being kept during construction.