Seal and Sea Lion Exhibit
The new Como Harbor at the Como Park Zoo provides a year-round home for seals and sea lions and new amenities for guests. IMEG provided structural engineering design and services for the redesign and improvement project, which updates the original 50-year-old building and meets the changing federal regulatory requirements for marine mammals and adequate collection management requirements.
Animals living in the original facility had to be transferred by zoo staff from their indoor winter home to the outdoor exhibit in the summer, but the new exhibit features two saltwater pools, where the seals and sea lions can live year-round, with above and below water viewing, underwater transfers, and multiple training locations. Other amenities include an improved, covered amphitheater and new restroom and concessions/food service buildings. The project also included an addition to the marine animal building and a new, state-of-the-art water filtration and treatment building for the new exhibit and marine animals.
As a State-of-Minnesota-funded project, the design and construction team complied with B3 (Buildings, Benchmarks & Beyond) Guidelines and met the owners needs while keeping the zoo open for occupancy during the phased construction.
The scale and location of the various project components in an existing site proved to be challenging due to very congested conditions below grade. All site utilities, habitat foundations, habitat water treatment distribution system, and existing buildings and site drainage had to be coordinated between all parties to ensure the utilities, foundations, construction phasing, and winter conditions were all accounted for when it came time for construction.
Additionally, the new filtration building and its large concrete tanks and tie-ins to the new habitat water supply/return were built into the side of the hill that is adjacent to the main service drive used for behind-the-scenes zoo operations. IMEG worked with the other design team members, construction manager, and owner to address the changes in grade and provide new structures and additions that met the owner’s vision for the brand-new, family-friendly outdoor amphitheater and support spaces.
**Photo credit: Como Park Zoo and Conservatory