The Tulsa Zoo broke ground Thursday morning on a play area intended to encourage children to embody the animals they see on display.

A private ceremony was held at 10 a.m. for the Helmerich “Behaving Like Animals” Playground, which has been designed with different ages and capabilities in mind.

Ellen Averill, a spokeswoman for the zoo, said the $3 million playground will boast age-specific play areas for toddlers to parents and sensory aspects. The designs are intended to allow children to mimic behaviors and movements of animals, Averill said.

The playground is the first project of the second phase of the zoo’s master plan to rebuild, Averill said, and a small one at that.

The $26 million worth of improvements brought to the more than 90-year-old zoo in the first phase — the Mary K. Chapman Rhino Reserve, St. John Family Den, the Osage Casino & Hotel Giraffe Barn and Lost Kingdom exhibit complex — serve to illustrate the direction officials are taking.

Beyond the playground, Averill said the $62 million second phase of the master plan will include efforts to improve habitats for Asian elephants and African species and the reshaping of the zoo’s entry.

The playground is expected to open in the spring.


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Kelsy Schlotthauer


Twitter: @K_Schlott

Kelsy graduated with a journalism degree from Oklahoma State University in 2018 and moved to Colorado to cover breaking news before The World called her home in 2019. Follow her on Twitter for real-time reports. Phone: (918) 581-8455

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