N.C. Zoo eyes hotel, convention center

Posted August 13, 2010 4:31 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Zoo is considering adding a third exhibit area, as well as hotel and convention facilities on adjacent property, officials said Thursday.

Zoo officials have hired New York-based AECOM and Grant Leisure of Montecito, Calif., to conduct a $160,000 feasibility study, which is expected to be done by the end of November. Both firms work on projects dealing with tourist attractions and have served as consultants for Disney World, Graceland and the NASA Visitor Center.

The zoo includes exhibits representing Africa and North America, and officials are looking at adding an Asia exhibit. Zoo Director David Jones said developing a third continental exhibit would encourage visitors to stay more than a day to see the entire zoo.

To accommodate overnight visitors, the zoo is also looking at developing hotel and convention facilities and another complementary attraction on 273 acres adjoining zoo property. The N.C. Zoological Society, the zoo’s nonprofit support organization, recently acquired the property.

Jones said the various projects could create 600 jobs.

Randolph County, Asheboro and local tourism and economic development groups are helping the zoo fund the study.