1222 S 27th St, Lincoln, NE 68502
In 1959, Arnott Folsom had a vision to create a family destination where thousands of children and adults could interact with nature. With a donation from himself and his wife as well as the help from community leaders, Lincoln Children’s Zoo was founded. Opened in the summer of 1965, the Zoo became a place where children could get up-close to animals and surround themselves in scenic gardens.
That strong support for the Zoo from the community continues to this day, and for a variety of reasons. The Zoo donates over $250,000 of tickets, train rides and memberships each year to low income families in Lincoln. The Zoo has over 100 educational programs annually, serving over 2,000 children. The Zoo is home to Lincoln’s largest family holiday events, and is home to Nebraska’s only zoo event for visually impaired children. The Zoo is also home to Zoofari with Larry the Cable Guy, and gives free videos for children in hospitals across North America, which are seen by over 100,000 children. The Zoo also provides educational opportunities for teenagers through adventure trips to Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Florida.
Lincoln Children’s Zoo is taking the first step toward the largest expansion in its history, essentially doubling the size of the Zoo, while staying true to Mr. Folsom’s vision and dream. The expansion will create more interaction with animals than ever before. The giraffe experience is at the center of the expanded Zoo and will be the third in the nation to have both an indoor and outdoor viewing deck built specifically for year-round giraffe feeding. A terraced amphitheater will be located next to the habitat where families can enjoy a snack while watching the giraffes. The tiger habitat features several viewing and encounter points for guests and an expansive area of rockwork with a water feature for the tigers to roam and play. In one of the viewing areas, children can sit in the driver’s seat of a safari vehicle next to a tiger. The vehicle is divided in half by a large piece of glass and provides space for a tiger and guest to sit side by side. Just as important, the expansion will allow the Zoo to open year-round, as a number of the expansion efforts are geared to the inside, during the cold winter months.
Lincoln Children’s Zoo is also home to Lincoln Public School Science Focus Program – Zoo School students focus on science and nature in a non-traditional setting. The School has an ongoing partnership with Lincoln Public Schools to provide enhanced classroom and learning spaces, and the expansion will include the new Education and Conservation Center including laboratories, for students with an interest in science and nature, to replace the temporary classrooms. Designed for Grades 9-12, students attend 1st and 2nd periods at their “home” high school, and the rest of the day at “Zoo School” on site. Graduates of the Science Focus Program have gone on to successful careers as scientists, medical professionals, physicists, and more.
In January of 2019, the Zoo hired Crescent to pursue NMTCs in conjunction with its overall financing plan for the expansion. With the $20M+ capital campaign winding down, Crescent worked to secure an investor commitment along with Nebraska State NMTC allocation. In April of 2019, Crescent and the Lincoln Children’s Zoo closed on $10.0M of Nebraska State NMTCs provided by Petros-Pacesetter, leveraging a NMTC equity investment made by Petros-Pacesetter.
The NMTC successfully covered the financing gap, and the newly-completed Lincoln Children’s Zoo recently opened to the public, creating 12 new full-time and 15 new part-time jobs.