Construction is underway at the Minnesota Zoo on a $20 million addition that includes a new main entrance, educational facilities and a penguin exhibit.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty joined zoo officials and corporate sponsors Monday for a groundbreaking ceremony. State lawmakers provided $15 million for the "Heart of the Zoo" project in this year's bonding bill.
Zoo Director Lee Ehmke said the expansion will strengthen the zoo's commitment to environmental education, set the tone for zoo visits and boost the area's economy.
"It means good things for the state of Minnesota," he said. "The zoo, this last year, had an economic impact of $114 million. With the completion of Heart of the Zoo, that's going to go up significantly."
Construction on the first phase of the zoo project is scheduled to be completed by the end of next summer. The project includes three phases, the last of which will be complete in 2015.