March 29, 2005 - Knoxville Zoo will open
its most fun-filled exhibit area in its 57-year history on April 2.
It's called Kids Cove.
The zoo has wanted to build a bigger and better children's area
since 1987 when plans were first developed by former zoo director
Ted Beattie and associates. The plans were updated in 1997 when
the zoo embarked on an $18 million capital campaign. The zoo has
not changed the vision of the original plan, but from those plans
this area has evolved into a project costing more than $6 million
and covering nearly three acres.
Kids Cove is based on an early 1990s Appalachian farm. While kids
of all ages enjoy Knoxville Zoo, Kids Cove is aimed specifically
at thrilling those 12 and under. There is a play cabin, a vegetable
garden where kids can plant imitation vegetables, animals and play
spaces all with an East Tennessee theme. It is a place where kids
can observe and interact with animals that live in this area, role
play as farmers and zookeepers by dressing up in costume play clothes,
or have the tools and opportunities provided to stimulate their
imaginations as they pretend to be the animals they experience in
whole zoo is for kids, but Kids Cove is built specifically for children
and has lots of fun stuff in one location," explained Jim Vlna,
executive director. "This learning and play area has many opportunities
for traditional play and many new activities where kids can be creative
and use their imagination. Parents will be able to either let their
children experience Kids Cove on their own or be part of the learning.
We will help parents teach their children about what goes on at
a farm and more about the animals that live in East Tennessee."
The zoo started construction of Kids Cove in April 2003. Construction
began in the area where the old zoo entrance used to be. As it was
very steep, the zoo leveled out the area by bringing in more than
600 truckloads of dirt.
A big part of Kids Cove was transforming the old concrete grotto
areas into three distinct, but unified areas. Three concrete exhibits
were originally built in 1974 and have housed animals such as baboons
and several types of bears. Now each has become its own area for
As visitors first enter Kids Cove they will see a pig yard that
features a pig wallow and is the home of Guinea hogs. At the barn,
there is a contact yard where kids can participate in activities
they currently enjoy most at the zoo - petting and brushing farm
animals. The barnyard includes Nigerian dwarf goats, Oberhasli goats
and Tunis sheep.
Beyond the barn, there is a huge playground like none other in East
Tennessee. It includes a giant sandbox, climbing areas for children,
and three fun slides that either go straight down, spiral around
or underneath a waterfall.
The playground also includes Clayton's Play Cabin, which is modeled
after a homestead area one might find in Cades Cove, but with all
the slides, spills, and thrills of a traditional playground. The
cabin houses a giant climbing structure leading up to a spiraling
slide. Located next to the cabin is the First Tennessee spider web
for kids to climb.
The sandbox is a giant 500-square foot area where kids will enjoy
digging for buried items, building their own sand structures and
playing in the sand.
Kids Cove is an area for all kids, including those who are physically
challenged. The zoo consulted with an expert on accessibility in
playground design to meet all our visitors' needs, and the zoo incorporated
those suggestions into a terrific playground area that is ADA compliant.
Pond and Aviary
For the first time in the zoo's history, beavers are on exhibit.
These animals will surely become a favorite. The exhibit has been
designed so that the beavers will be able to chomp down trees and
build their own dam. Zoo staff will periodically dismantle their
dam, as would happen in the wild, so that the beavers will continue
building and being active. There is underwater viewing as well as
an area to peer inside their den so visitors can get a glimpse wherever
they might be.
The walk-through aviary includes many species of birds that live
in the backyards of East Tennessee. It also contains several giant
play eggs and nests for kids to climb over and play in while birds
fly overhead. There is an assortment of interactive tools to get
visitors "up close and personal" with our feathered friends.
Another first for the zoo is the Wild & Whimsical Carousel.
The carousel is the only permanent one in Knoxville and has been
custom-built for the zoo. Proceeds from the carousel will help with
the daily operations of Kids Cove. Tokens for the carousel can be
purchased for $2 a ride or three rides for $5. Knoxville Zoo members
can ride for $1.
Kids Cove has much more for visitors to enjoy. It includes a water
play area filled with fun ways for kids to play, including giant
squirting frogs and lily pads to jump. There are rabbits and chickens
and even a giant fiberglass-milking cow for kids to practice their
dairy skills. The concession stand serves up kid-sized hamburgers,
hot dogs and fun fries. And, the gift shop, called KC's General
Store, carries a fun selection of gifts, toys and books themed around
Cove April 2, 2005
Knoxville Zoo's has a reputation of being the best place to bring
kids in East Tennessee. That status will grow even stronger with
the opening of Kids Cove.
"Kids Cove will be the best place to bring kids for fun and
learning," said Vlna. "With the opening of this area the
zoo is looking to fulfill even more of what the people of East Tennessee
and the surrounding region already know."
Kids Cove is ready. Ready for all Knoxville Zoo visitors to enjoy
Knoxville Zoo is located off exit 392 from Interstate 40 and
is open every day except Christmas Day. The zoo is nationally accredited
by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and is committed to
the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation,
and education. For more information, please call 865-637-5331 ext.