Lake Superior Zoo pavilion gets makeoverEarly in June 2012, Lake Superior Zoo CEO Sam Maida stood next to the zoo’s historic pavilion, outlining plans for renovations that were to begin in July.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Duluth News Tribune
Early in June 2012, Lake Superior Zoo CEO Sam Maida stood next to the zoo’s historic pavilion, outlining plans for renovations that were to begin in July.
Then the June 2012 flood hit, and the zoo had its hands full with more pressing projects — repairing exhibits, finding homes for displaced animals and cleaning up debris. The pavilion got put on the back burner.
“(The pavilion campaign) got launched, but it never really took off,” Maida said.
After the flood, all private donations went toward recovery, and the grant money for the pavilion got pushed back.
“We had already had those funds committed, so we were able to get the Legislature to allow us to carry those funds forward,” Maida said.
Now that the zoo is on its feet, the pavilion project is back on. Construction began this week on the 80-year-old structure. The pavilion was built by people in the Works Progress Administration, a program to put unskilled people to work during the Great Depression. Thousands of events, from weddings to corporate picnics, have been held there since.
“This pavilion has created millions of memories,” Maida said, citing his own recollections as a young crossing guard at Fairmount Elementary School. The school, just a 10-minute walk from the zoo, held its end-of-year banquets for student patrols there.
The pavilion was formerly part of Fairmount Park, located just next to the zoo. It fell into disrepair about 15 years ago and was condemned by the city of Duluth five or six years ago.
“It hurt our business when we couldn’t use this anymore, because we don’t have a lot of space,” he said.
The rental revenue disappeared, and the lack of space might have discouraged large school groups from visiting. Instead of just fixing the roof on the open-air structure, the zoo decided to make it a three-season building by adding walls.
“To save something like that, you have to give it a new purpose,” he said.
Half of the $475,000 project is being funded by the state Legacy Fund, with the remaining money coming from other donations and Lake Superior Zoological Society funds. Kraus-Anderson Construction is handling the renovations. The finished structure will have space for the zoo’s educational programs and a display telling the history of the zoo and the area.
Contributions to the project — in any amount — are still being accepted. Throughout the summer, the zoo has received heartfelt support from some of its youngest fans: kids with lemonade stands who donated their proceeds to the zoo.
“It’s so cool when they do that,” said Kim Matteen, director of marketing.
Construction is expected to wrap up in October, and a grand opening will be held next spring, after which the space will be available for rent. Maida said he hopes it will become the community center it once was — and the view of Kingsbury Creek can’t be beat.
“We want to be able to share this with the community,” he said. “It takes the support of the community to keep us going.”