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Assiniboine Zoo's Journey to Churchill exhibit to open July 3

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The Journey to Churchill begins in Winnipeg on July 3.

That’s the date for the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s opening of its much-anticipated attraction that will feature polar bears, seals and other Arctic wildlife.

The Zoo also announced a fee hike along with the opening of its new exhibit, with the adult entrance fee going up to $18.50 from the current $10.24, and the family membership going up to $189 from $115.

“The new rates are comparable or less than most major zoos in North America and are also in line with the many other entertainment options at a local level,” said Margaret Redmond, president and CEO of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC), in a press release.

“But we want Assiniboine Park Zoo to be accessible for everyone so, in addition to group and bulk ticket discounts, we’re hoping the introduction of 10-dollar Tuesdays and changing the free admission age from under two to under three (years old) will do a lot to achieve that goal.”

Redmond said the Conservancy is taking steps to lessen its reliance on tax dollars, adding that in 2015, their funding model will flip from 75 per cent public dollars to 35 per cent “with the majority (65 per cent) coming from earned revenue.”

“The task APC was given years ago was an important one — the Zoo itself was deteriorating and the facilities simply didn’t meet the minimum standards for the animals in the Zoo’s care,” she said.

Media got a tour of the $90-million exhibit, which includes the already built Tundra Grill restaurant and Polar Playground, earlier this month.

Among the exhibits nearing completion are the Gateway to the Arctic zone, with pools for the polar bears and seals, and the Aurora Borealis Theatre; Wapusk Lowlands where visitors will see foxes and musk oxen, the Churchill Coast zone and the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

Don Peterkin, chief operations officer for Assiniboine Park Conservancy, said this past winter, the coldest since 1898, had only slightly delayed the construction work.

In order to facilitate ticket-buying during the likely busy first weeks of the new exhibit, tickets will be sold through the Zoo’s website, assiniboineparkzoo.ca, starting Monday, June 23, 2014.

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