Contractor chosen for massive Point Defiance project

Jody Miller Construction Inc. of Tacoma has been chosen to build the largest project ever undertaken at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium – the Asia Forest Sanctuary exhibit.

The contract was approved Monday night by Metro Parks Tacoma commissioners.

The nearly $6.2 million project will begin next week, and project managers expect the exhibit to be ready by summer 2004.

Upon completion of the exhibit, Point Defiance will become the second zoo in the nation to employ an active animal exhibitry, in which animals rotate in different enclosure areas.

This is meant to stimulate and enrich the experience of the animals, as well as make a more interesting experience for zoo visitors.

The exhibit will occupy 3 acres, comparable in size to the zoo’s Rocky Shores/Tundra area.

The Asia Forest Sanctuary Exhibit will be home to several exciting – and endangered – animals.

It will include five exhibit areas, with tigers, two species of primates (gibbons and siamangs), tapirs, small-clawed otters and other animals.

Landscaping and water features – including artificial rockwork – will create a lush Asian forest-like environment.

“This exciting exhibit will redefine Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium as a world-class zoo emphasizing Pacific Rim animals,” said Deputy Director John Houck. “Visitors can watch the massive exhibit taking shape during the coming months.”

Zoo officials have previously said they will make use of the redevelopment as a learning experience for visitors, with an emphasis on educating children.

Animal handlers and education staff are set to make more frequent appearances at the zoo as construction continues, with children learning how a zoo is built through hands-on activities.

Jody Miller Construction, founded in 1976, has built a number of other major projects in the Pacific Northwest, including the Franklin Pierce High School addition and remodel, University Place Public Safety Building, Nisqually Wildlife Refuge headquarters and Bethel Elementary School No. 15.

The Asia Forest Sanctuary is just one of many projects that are transforming the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

Other projects include a state-of-the-art animal hospital, a Kids Zone and new entrance.

The zoo’s redevelopment is being financed with proceeds from a $35 million bond issue approved by Tacoma voters in 1999.

Work on all projects is scheduled to be complete in 2005, in time for the zoo’s centennial celebration.