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Penguin Chill Grand Opening at the Zoo

The wait is over for Albuquerque penguin enthusiasts.

July 23, 2019 - The wait is over for the much-anticipated Penguin Chill exhibit, which opened today with a ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Tim Keller at the ABQ BioPark Zoo.

The 14,550 square-foot building includes a 75,589 gallon main tank, above-ground and underwater guest viewing areas, a large interactive educational area and an outdoor deck overlooking the Zoo's main park. 
"We are very excited to launch our Penguin Chill habitat and introduce the public to its resident penguins," said Karen Waterfall, ABQ BioPark curator of birds. "Visitors will embark on a journey across these birds' natural habitat to learn more them, how they're being affected by climate change and what they can do to help."
"We'd like to thank everyone who made this exhibit possible, from Albuquerque taxpayers, to architects, construction crews, the New Mexico BioPark Society and all of the people who helped put together educational components inside the building," said ABQ BioPark Director Baird Fleming. "And, of course, our keepers, who have been working hard to get our penguins ready for their public debut." 

“We join Albuquerque’s excitement that the penguins are finally here and comfortable in their new habitat,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “These three species of penguins are already bringing new energy to our BioPark’s conservation and education efforts. Come check out our cool new residents.”

Major features of the Penguin Chill habitat:

  • A themed main viewing deck will offer a panoramic view to visitors. Standing and seated areas provide visitors with comfortable viewing opportunities. 
  • A main pool with depths varying from 5-12 feet allows for plenty of space for penguin activity including special public feedings with keepers, swimming and enrichment. 
  • A glass floor area allows guests to see penguins swimming beneath their feet. 
  • A fully immersive experience including opportunities to watch underwater behaviors and even step inside a curved glass area with water above and to the sides. 
  • The largest interactive educational area of any ABQ BioPark Zoo habitat invites guests to learn more about penguins and how they can help with conservation efforts. 
  • Natural day/night and seasonal lighting cycles help regulate the penguins' hormonal balancing and breeding. 
  • An outdoor raised deck provides an overlook to the Zoo's Central ParQ and features restrooms and a themed café. 
  • A live replication of the Aurora Australis, also known as the southern lights.
The project cost roughly $19.1 million. $17.1 million of that was funded by the gross receipts tax, making Penguin Chill the first major project of the ABQ BioPark master plan to be funded by tax payers. An additional $2 million was provided by the New Mexico BioPark Society. The ABQ BioPark would like to thank Albuquerque's residents for voting yes to the gross receipts tax in October 2015, and in turn, funding a major part of this exhibit. 
Construction for the exhibit started in February 2017 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by then-mayor, Richard Berry.  
Creating an exhibit of this scale is a joint effort between many city departments and local companies. The ABQ BioPark would like to thank the following for their part in the project: 
  • New Mexico BioPark Society
  • VHGArchitects
  • HB Construction
  • Ideum 
  • Lee Landscapes
  • Isaacson and Arfman Engineering
  • Bridges & Paxton Consulting Engineers
  • MRWM Landscape Architects
  • Chaves-Grieves Consulting Engineers Inc. 
  • Alvine and Associates Inc. 
The New Mexico BioPark Society and the ABQ BioPark would also like to thank the following exhibit sponsors, who funded specific components of the exhibit with their generous donations:
  • Dr. Bruce W. Hinrichs, M.D.
  • Betty and Luke J. Vortman
  • Lane and Renee Sensabaugh
  • Tom Martin and Cindy Phillips
  • The Yearout Family Foundation
  • Anna and Reed Mulkey
  • Sunny 505
  • Michael Guier
  • MRWM Landscape Architects