Ron Kagan, Detroit Zoological Society executive director, revealed design plans and animations of the $21 million, 24,000-square-foot facility to members of the press at the zoo's Ford Education Center.
"To the best of our knowledge this will be the largest penguin facility that is entirely dedicated to penguins," Kagan said.
About 80 penguins will call the conservation center home. The birds will deep dive through a chilled 310,000-gallon pool, which is 25-feet deep, and can be viewed by visitors from above and below, too, thanks to acrylic floors.
"The penguins will actually be doing laps around us," Kagan said.
The interior of the facility is inspired by polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic expeditions in the early 1900s and features 4-D special effects, such as arctic blasts, rough waves and snow.
Exhibit sensory elements include:
- sounds of cracking ice
- penguin calls
- cold icy surfaces
- crisp, cold breezes
The exhibit will vary so visitors will never know what kind of experience to expect, Kagan said.
The project is set to break ground in March, thanks to a $10 million grant from the Polk Family Fund. The donation is the largest in the zoo's 85-year history. Stephen Polk, former, chairman, president and CEO of R. L. Polk Company - a provider of automotive data and marketing solutions - travelled with Kagan to Antarctica in 2013 and was present at today's announcement.
Kagan said he hopes the new feature will be open to the public by Thanksgiving 2015.