Sea Lion Cove contributed to a 28% increase in zoo attendance upon opening


Fresno, CA


Fresno Chaffee Zoo


The Portico Group


Sea Lion Cove Project Wins Top Honor Exhibit Award at National AZA Conference

​The Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s Sea Lion Cove exhibit, designed by Portico Group and built by MATT Construction, earned the 2014 Top Honor Exhibit Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The award, announced this week at the national AZA conference in Orlando, Florida, is the national organization’s highest honor for exhibits, chosen out of applications from other members including the San Diego Zoo, the Smithsonian and Sea World.

Giant acrylic underwater viewing window
Giant acrylic underwater viewing window

Sea Lion Cove opened to zoo visitors on Aug. 27, 2012, featuring a 240,000 gallon pool with rock features making a home for three sea lions, two harbor seals and two brown pelicans, where visitors are immersed in a naturalistic setting mimicking the California Central Coast. There are several viewing areas to provide visitors with a memorable experience, including a face-to-face viewing window, an above-water viewing area to overlook the entire pool, a 36-foot long underwater acrylic viewing window, and a shallow water encounter area for VIPs and special tours.

The exhibit contributed to a 28 percent increase in attendance after the first year of opening.

“After watching our guests’ reaction to Sea Lion Cove, we knew it was a success for Fresno County,” said Fresno Chaffee Zoo CEO/Director Scott Barton, in a press release. “But to get national recognition from our colleagues reaffirms that, with the great support from our community, Fresno is creating one of the best zoos in the country.”

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