Zoo Announces Kids Cove

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Zoo Announces Kids Cove

Posted: 03/29/2005
Knoxville Zoo will open its most fun-filled exhibit area in its 57-year history on April 2. It's called Kids Cove.

The zoo has wanted to build a bigger and better children's area since 1987 when plans were first developed by former zoo director Ted Beattie and associates. The plans were updated in 1997 when the zoo embarked on an $18 million capital campaign.

 The zoo has not changed the vision of the original plan, but from those plans this area has evolved into a project costing more than $6 million and covering nearly three acres. Kids Cove is based on an early 1990s Appalachian farm. While kids of all ages enjoy Knoxville Zoo, Kids Cove is aimed specifically at thrilling those 12 and under. There is a play cabin, a vegetable garden where kids can plant imitation vegetables, animals and play spaces all with an East Tennessee theme. It is a place where kids can observe and interact with animals that live in this area, role play as farmers and zookeepers by dressing up in costume play clothes, or have the tools and opportunities provided to stimulate their imaginations as they pretend to be the animals they experience in Kids Cove. "The whole zoo is for kids, but Kids Cove is built specifically for children and has lots of fun stuff in one location," explained Jim Vlna, executive director. "This learning and play area has many opportunities for traditional play and many new activities where kids can be creative and use their imagination. Parents will be able to either let their children experience Kids Cove on their own or be part of the learning. We will help parents teach their children about what goes on at a farm and more about the animals that live in East Tennessee."


The zoo started construction of Kids Cove in April 2003. Construction began in the area where the old zoo entrance used to be. As it was very steep, the zoo leveled out the area by bringing in more than 600 truckloads of dirt.


A big part of Kids Cove was transforming the old concrete grotto areas into three distinct, but unified areas. Three concrete exhibits were originally built in 1974 and have housed animals such as baboons and several types of bears. Now each has become its own area for kids.


As visitors first enter Kids Cove they will see a pig yard that features a pig wallow and is the home of Guinea hogs. At the barn, there is a contact yard where kids can participate in activities they currently enjoy most at the zoo - petting and brushing farm animals. The barnyard includes Nigerian dwarf goats, Oberhasli goats and Tunis sheep.


Beyond the barn, there is a huge playground like none other in East Tennessee. It includes a giant sandbox, climbing areas for children, and three fun slides that either go straight down, spiral around or underneath a waterfall. The playground also includes Clayton's Play Cabin, which is modeled after a homestead area one might find in Cades Cove, but with all the slides, spills, and thrills of a traditional playground. The cabin houses a giant climbing structure leading up to a spiraling slide. Located next to the cabin is the First Tennessee spider web for kids to climb.The sandbox is a giant 500-square foot area where kids will enjoy digging for buried items, building their own sand structures and playing in the sand. Kids Cove is an area for all kids, including those who are physically challenged. The zoo consulted with an expert on accessibility in playground design to meet all our visitors' needs, and the zoo incorporated those suggestions into a terrific playground area that is ADA compliant.

Beaver Pond and Aviary

For the first time in the zoo's history, beavers are on exhibit. These animals will surely become a favorite. The exhibit has been designed so that the beavers will be able to chomp down trees and build their own dam. Zoo staff will periodically dismantle their dam, as would happen in the wild, so that the beavers will continue building and being active. There is underwater viewing as well as an area to peer inside their den so visitors can get a glimpse wherever they might be.The walk-through aviary includes many species of birds that live in the backyards of East Tennessee. It also contains several giant play eggs and nests for kids to climb over and play in while birds fly overhead. There is an assortment of interactive tools to get visitors "up close and personal" with our feathered friends.


Another first for the zoo is the Wild & Whimsical Carousel. The carousel is the only permanent one in Knoxville and has been custom-built for the zoo. Proceeds from the carousel will help with the daily operations of Kids Cove. Tokens for the carousel can be purchased for $2 a ride or three rides for $5. Knoxville Zoo members can ride for $1.

Much more

Kids Cove has much more for visitors to enjoy. It includes a water play area filled with fun ways for kids to play, including giant squirting frogs and lily pads to jump. There are rabbits and chickens and even a giant fiberglass-milking cow for kids to practice their dairy skills. The concession stand serves up kid-sized hamburgers, hot dogs and fun fries. And, the gift shop, called KC's General Store, carries a fun selection of gifts, toys and books themed around Appalachia.

Kids Cove April 2, 2005

Knoxville Zoo's has a reputation of being the best place to bring kids in East Tennessee. That status will grow even stronger with the opening of Kids Cove. "Kids Cove will be the best place to bring kids for fun and learning," said Vlna. "With the opening of this area the zoo is looking to fulfill even more of what the people of East Tennessee and the surrounding region already know."Kids Cove is ready. Ready for all Knoxville Zoo visitors to enjoy and experience.