An illustration of the entrance to the proposed Elk Grove zoo. 

The city of Elk Grove and the Sacramento Zoological Society (SZS) on Nov. 17 released conceptual plans and drawings for the proposed zoo in Elk Grove.

Earlier this year, these parties completed a six-month feasibility study that identified a potential relocation of the Sacramento Zoo to Elk Grove as a viable option.

If built, the new, regional zoo would be located on city-owned property off Highway 99 at the northwest corner of Kammerer Road and Lotz Parkway.

That land was purchased by the city of Elk Grove for $9 million last February. The property totals 100 acres, of which about 70 acres is proposed for the zoo – about 60 acres for animal habitat and 10 acres for parking. This site is also near the Sky River Casino, which opened in August.

The zoo’s current site in Sacramento’s William Land Park totals 14.7 acres. This facility is home to more than 400 animals.

Prepared by SHR Studios and Mangolin Creative, the recently unveiled drawings reveal a state-of-the-art, modern zoo, featuring expansive savannas where African wildlife will roam, and guests will be immersed in the animals’ surroundings.

Sacramento Zoo Executive Director/CEO Jason Jacobs noted that the most exciting aspect about the proposed, multi-phased zoo’s conceptual renderings are their depictions of the interactions between the animals and people.

“An incredible zoo doesn’t just take care of animals; it also takes good care of people,” he said. “We want this new zoo to be one of the best in the United States and something that Elk Grove and the entire region can really be proud of.”

Included in the drawings are a variety of possible options for guests of the zoo to obtain close views of such animals as a white rhinoceros and a Masai giraffe.

Visitors could also have the opportunity to feed a hippopotamus or spend a night at the zoo in a luxury tent-cabin with views of a hippopotamus lake.

Elk Grove City Manager Jason Behrmann shared his thoughts about the conceptual drawings.

“The renderings really help show the vision and the possibilities for this project and what it could bring to our region, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” he said. “The renderings help us to better understand the costs and how we might be able to construct the zoo in phases. But it also presents an opportunity to start a dialogue with other sources for funding and collaboration.”

Behrmann told the Citizen that much effort went into determining what options would be presented in the conceptual drawings.

“(There were) a lot of meetings, a lot of discussion of understanding what makes for a successful zoo – habitats for animals with priorities, animal care, conservation, what will make a great experience for visitors to the zoo,” he said. “It’s a very in-depth process.”

Behrmann shared what he likes about the conceptual plans for the zoo.

“There’s a lot to it,” he said. “I love the natural aspects of the habitats. So, trying to create natural environments for the species, the animals, that mirrors as closely as we can their habitat from where they’re from.

“So, if you look at the savanna or the African highlands in Ethiopia, where the gelada monkeys (live) – just that creating (of) space that people can almost be transported to those places from far across the globe.”

Regarding the timeline for this proposed project, Behrmann mentioned that in a best-case scenario, the construction of a zoo in Elk Grove would begin in 2025, and the facility would be completed and opened in 2027.

However, Behrmann noted that it is important for people to understand that this project is still “very much in the conceptual phase.”

“We’re not going to build exactly what you see in these drawings,” he said. “Part of the process is to put (these renderings) out there, and then continue to get community feedback and input. As we go through subsequent phases, it’s going to be fine-tuned and modified. There are going to be some animals that will change; added, (taken) out.”

SZS Board President Elizabeth Stallard stressed that extensive community support will be needed in the efforts to have a new zoo constructed.

“We hope that the release of these incredible images will inspire and motivate individuals and entities to want to be a part of creating this incredible new zoo,” she said.

Efforts to find a new site for the zoo have been extensive.

The zoo board unanimously voted in 2019 to have the zoo relocated from its current site to a 50- to 60-acre site in time for a grand opening during its centennial in 2027.

In September 2021, following unsuccessful efforts to find a suitable new site for the zoo in Sacramento, the city of Elk Grove and the Sacramento Zoological Society entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement to evaluate the creation of a new, modern zoological park in Elk Grove.

Since that time, the feasibility study and economic impact analysis was completed, and arrangements were made for SHR Studios to create the proposed zoo’s conceptual plan.

Future steps in the process to potentially relocate and expand the zoo in Elk Grove includes developing a schematic design and financing plan, and completing an environmental impact review.

The proposed Elk Grove zoo project could be presented to the Elk Grove City Council for their consideration during the latter part of next year.

To view the conceptual drawings and learn more about this project, visit the website, www.SacZoo.org.