Crews renovating Bass Pro Shops’ Wonders of Wildlife facility have entered the final stretch ahead of a projected mid-2016 debut.
The facility, to be called America’s Wildlife Museum and Aquarium, has been closed for years to allow time for the massive project that will triple its original size. Visitors next year will view aquatic life in aquariums totaling more than 1 million gallons, countless taxidermied wild animals and several interactive exhibits.
Director of Operations Mickey Black describes the immersive experience of its newly completed diorama featuring sheep from around the world.
“You can see that the lighting is on a loop that goes through a 24-hour day. There are sound effects in this room that could be wind, rocks tumbling down the side of a mountain, ravens calling off in the distance, maybe the horns of two rams clacking together. It’s also colder in this room than any other area. So it’s a 4D experience whenever you walk into this room,” says Black
Visitors will also experience another large and energetic taxidermy display featuring a herd of bison facing off against several wolves.
“And they are in kind of a protective mode, with the calf that is tucked back in here; this would be very natural in what you would see. You got the wolves starting to circle, and as you can see the animals have been placed to where they are very natural locked onto each other” Black says.
And around the corner, an 11-foot polar bear stands before a beautifully hand painted mural. These collections continue as visitor’s move throughout the museum, moving from the arctic and Rocky Mountains into the Amazon rainforest, southern swamps, Caribbean islands, and sinkholes like those found in the Ozarks.
As you enter the aquarium, construction is still under way on one of Bass Pros’ newest developments.
“We have a real exciting exhibit coming together in there, that’s a bunch of river giants from around the world. We have fish that are typically seen in Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa,” says Black.
Black talks about one of the aquarium’s immersive experiences for youth.
“You have a ray touch tank. Several different species of rays in here, this one in particular is a cow nosed ray. Something pretty exciting about these fish, these are called a shovel nosed guitar fish. We actually had seven pups born this week to one of those shovel nose guitar fish right there, that was very exciting” Black says.
One of the larger aquariums features a sunken ship. The surrounding walls and structures are elaborately detailed and textured to give the feeling that you’re standing in the middle of the habitat.
Jack Wlezien is Bas Pros’ director of communications.
“We really want to connect people with nature. Whether that’s putting you into an immersive habitat, or whether you are literally physically connecting with nature and having an experience with a ray. That’s going to foster a lifelong memory, and we hope an appreciation and a love for not only rays, but all aquatic habitats and wildlife” Wlezien says.
Beyond the displays and wildlife, the facility will continue to foster education in youth and adults through its conservation programs.
While Bass Pro is not disclosing the costs associated with the renovations, according to Black, funding for the facility has come primarily from private sources. The America’s Wildlife Museum & Aquarium will open in 2016, ticket prices and hours of operation have yet to be announced. More information and updates can be found here.