Construction has begun on the new Wild Wonders Amphitheater at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
Footings were poured Friday for the amphitheater, which backs up to the bowl area of Point Defiance Park.
The open-air amphitheater will feature covered seating for 350 people and hillside seating for an additional 850 visitors.
It will be the new staging area for live animal presentations as well as concerts and other events.
Project managers expect the amphitheater stage to be ready next July.
The project also includes a new central pathway and plaza corridor through the zoo, which should be completed by fall.
With a combination of rustic wood support structures and high-tech fiberglass/Teflon tension fabric roof, the amphitheater will be a striking addition to the zoo.
It was designed by Tacoma-based BCRA Tsang Architects.
Pease Construction of Lakewood is the general contractor for the project.
This project will greatly enhance our ability to offer high-quality animal programs and fulfill our mission of conservation and education, said Deputy Director John Houck.
The $2.94 million project is part of a major makeover under way at the zoo financed with proceeds from a $35 million bond issue approved by Tacoma voters in 1999.
Other projects include a major new Asian Forest Sanctuary exhibit, Kids Zone, state-of-the-art animal hospital and new entry.
Work on all projects is scheduled to be complete in 2005, in time for the zoos centennial celebration.