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State chips in $400,000 for Zoo's polar bear exhibit

Chris Caya/WBFO News

The Buffalo Zoo is another step closer to building its new polar bear exhibit. Assemblyman Sean Ryan announced Monday he has secured $400,000 to help fund construction. 

Ryan (D-Buffalo) says the local delegation asked in a unified voice in Albany and the money was found.

"Originally, we were told there's no chance of getting $400,000. We went and asked them to go back and look at the unspent capital accounts, the equivalent of looking underneath your couch cushions," Ryan said.

Polar bears Luna and Kali has been huge draws at the zoo throughout the year, but their futures have been uncertain, largely tied to whether the Arctic Edge exhibit gets built in a timely manner.

"The Arctic Edge exhibit will allow us to keep our polar bears and will allow us to keep delivering a continued economic benefit from bringing more and more visitors here to the zoo," Ryan said.

Zoo President Donna Fernandes says she is grateful for the state funding, but she says the Zoo still needs to raise another $1.5 million to meet its goal. In the meantime, enough funding is in place for the first construction contracts to be awarded on Tuesday.

Fernandes says demolition of the old bear exhibit will begin in a few days. Construction on the new one should begin in February with a goal of opening in 2015.


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