CHARLOTTE--It's still a few years away from becoming a reality, but Robert Mussen says when you walk into the Charlotte Zoo, your imagination will go wild.
"The beautiful part about building a zoo this day in time, is the technology's changed quite a bit, so we have a great platform to be able to allow the animals to be in the most enriched environment, while getting the visitors who come the best vantage point to view the animals,” said Mussen, president and founder of the Charlotte Zoological Park Initiative.
The Charlotte Zoological Park Initiative began four years ago, and over the next few weeks or months, organizers will be ramping up their marketing efforts.
"We're very close, I believe, to having a land deal, and once that happens, we're going to step up our efforts with the public to let them know exactly what we're doing and how they can get involved to support us,” said Mussen.
That plot of land is in southwest Charlotte, just seven miles from the center of uptown. What zoo leaders have been doing the past few years is building a good foundation and a tangible connection with the community, through their Cha-Zoom program, an educational mobile zoo.
"It lets them see something outside the classroom. A lot of these kids they just go home, go straight to class, and they don't actually get to feel things and touch things and understand how they move,” said Carrie Saunders, director of education for the Charlotte Zoological Park Initiative.
Currently, the zoo has just over two dozen animals, mainly reptiles and small mammals, but the overall goal is much larger, including things such as lions and giraffes and dolphins and whales, animals from all over the world.
"What we'll do is we'll start off with a small amount of animals from each continent, and then we'll add to that. And they'll be in habitats that'll be interactive and co-habitative environments,” said Mussen.
They say it'll be a world class zoo, that'll help educate and inspire people of all ages.
"So we're going to bring the world, the outside world, the wild world, to Charlotte,” said Mussen.
Mussen says once they have the land, they'll launch a marketing plan that's already finished. The zoo will cost roughly $300 million, and will be completely privately-funded. They hope to have it open within three to four years.