Roto celebrates successful projects at Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Roto, a leading planning & design-build firm, was hired to provide master planning services for the Lincoln Children’s Zoo expansion in 2015.

Roto is pleased to have been a part of a successful expansion project at the popular Lincoln Children’s Zoo. The company began working with the zoo in 2015 after it was hired to perform master planning services for the expansion.

This master plan included the creation of a series of animal exhibits, designed to elevate the zoo’s offering to visitors. The plan featured updated facilities for giraffes, tigers, cheetahs and red pandas which allowed for unique opportunities for guests to observe and interact with the animals.

New habitats and amenities

Roto Lincoln Zoo

Roto’s master plan also included the addition of new areas where guests can enjoy the zoo all your round. For instance, the new indoor Secret Jungle, where young visitors can explore a rainforest canopy side-by-side with a troop of spider monkeys. In addition to this, the zoo is now home to an adventure stream and an enormous outdoor climbing structure, Ellie the Elephant.

Furthermore, the master plan introduced several new amenities to the zoo, such as new restaurant facilities, retail and an outdoor events centre.

Roto Lincoln Zoo

During the expansion’s first year of operation, the zoo saw an increase in attendance by over 50%. CEO John Chapo believes this is in part thanks to the popular new play environments at the attraction.

“Roto knows about guests and the guest experience. They are pros in the creative world of making a guest experience unforgettable and excellent,” said Chapo, on the company’s work with the zoo.

Roto’s deliverables included a visitor experience plan, developed in collaboration with the zoo team. This set the direction for all other disciplines such as architecture, civic engineering and landscape architecture. The company also developed concept visuals that were used to build community support and drive fundraising for the project.

Roto Lincoln Zoo

New play features

In 2018, the zoo asked Roto to design a signature, centrepiece climbing experience. This became Ellie the Elephant, an iconic 40-foot tall sculptural elephant, complete with a giant, twisty trunk that doubles as a 25-foot playground slide. The design features multiple play opportunities that provide a variety of experiences to kids of all ages and abilities.

Roto’s team was able to instal Ellie safely in March 2020, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The structure was designed and built to exacting standards for safety and accessibility.

For the top, guests can enjoy multiple lookouts over the zoo grounds. From Ellie’s oversized eyes, kids can peer out over the giraffe yard or down into the cheetah run. Her pillbox hat acts as a crow’s nest with views of Nebraska’s statehouse in downtown Lincoln.

When kids reach the bottom of Ellie’s trunk, various sounds effects, such as a slide-whistle and xylophone, are triggered. Plus, on hot days, the flower that Ellie is holding shoots a spray of water.

Custom play feature services

Roto is now marketing its custom play feature services to architects for other outdoor placemaking projects, not only zoos.

“Due to its deep experience with ambitious children’s museum exhibitions, Roto has designed, engineered and produced dozens of unique playground and other gross-motor play structures for indoor and outdoor applications,” said a company spokesperson.

“Anywhere an owner or developer desires friendly family engagement, Roto can deliver cleverly themed, artistically original, and professionally safe climbers, features and environments.”

Roto also recently completed work on the Kids Adventure Club, a 4,600 square foot immersive children’s playroom at NYC’s Waterline Square, which encourages interaction through experiential play.