Helzberg Penguin Plaza | Kansas City Zoo

Helzberg Penguin Plaza

Helzberg Penguin Plaza Facts

  • Ground breaking: September 2012
  • Opened: October 2013
  • Cost: $15 million

Funded by a private donation from the Helzberg Family; a $1 million lead gift from the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri in honor of their 100th anniversary; contributions from the Zoological District consisting of Jackson and Clay Counties in Missouri; and the diligent efforts of Zoo fans young and old, who gave up birthday gifts, collected pennies and wrote letters to bring penguins to Kansas City.

Junior League of Kansas City Penguin Ice Paradise

Thanks to the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri for their generous lead gift of one million dollars. The main exhibit area viewing window looks out onto massive ice formations that provide a variety of above and below water excitement. Some of the features visible include an ice bridge, tunnels and even pop-up holes for penguins to launch themselves out of.  Special Filtration is provided for this world-class exhibit to control airborne pathogens and provide odor control for the more than 100,000 gallons of salt water.  Water cycles through the life support systems every 30 minutes and used saltwater is recycled to conserve fresh water and salt. Two ice flake machines located on catwalk above the viewing window will produce 3” of snowfall per day, perfect for penguins to play!

Helzberg Family

All of us and our black and white birds are offering a high five flipper flap to the Shirley and Barnett Helzberg, Jr. family for their penguin-riffic  gift to the Zoo and to all of Kansas City. It will bring years of enjoyment to many.

Penguin Coast sponsored by Wagner Family Foundation

This temperate exhibit environment is 50-80 degrees and modeled after the native Peruvian and Chilean habitat where Humboldt penguins originate.  More than 25,000 gallons of cool salt water gives these birds ample room to swim and play.  Innovative exhaust ventilation system helps remove unpleasant odors and allows our guests to enjoy these amazing yet endangered birds. During warm months the temperate penguin exhibit is open to the outdoors via a folding window wall complete with two underwater doors to swim from indoors to out.  Eight nesting boxes are partially concealed in the rockwork to provide cozy burrows for the Humboldt penguins to nest and raise young.

Moon Jellies sponsored by JE DUNN Construction Company

This 1300 gallon exhibit displays the magical moon jellyfish. The grace and beauty of these primitive animals is apparent as they float gracefully on simulated ocean currents.

LEED Certification

The Kansas City Zoo has committed to sustainable building practices by attaining LEED Certification on all new construction projects. The roof of Helzberg Penguin Plaza will serve as the stage for 64 solar panels that make up a photovoltaic array producing 15-kilowatt hours of power. Recycled material makes up 20% of all materials used in the construction of this exhibit. Additionally, 20% of the materials were extracted or manufactured within 500 miles of the Kansas City Zoo (such as the architectural precast concrete panels on the building exterior).  A minimum of 75% of all construction waste was diverted from the landfill and taken to a recycling facility. Landscaped areas and open space promote biodiversity and adapted plant species selected for landscaping negate the need for irrigation.