SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — After 10 years and countless false rumors of its opening, Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife grand opening is in just five days.
Tracy Kimberlin, the president and CEO of the Route 66 Springfield Visitor Center, has had his eye on the grand opening for a decade.
“Since it closed back in 2007, we’ve had calls about when it’s going to re-open,” Kimberlin said. “We know now when that day is going to be and there’s no changing it at this point.”
Mark Schafer, the executive director for Wonders of Wildlife, says those who’ve seen it, have one thing to say: “wow.”
“We have about 90 exhibits,” Schafer said. “You’re standing in front of our bait ball exhibit. It’s about 125,000 gallons. Here comes one of our big salt water rays.”
Kimberlin anticipates the museum bringing in guests from all over the place.
“It’ll be a game-changer for the travel industry in Springfield,” he said.
While most traditional aquariums structure it so guests are on the outside looking in, this one immerses the guest so they’re on the inside looking out.
“There’s nothing quite like this,” Schafer said.
Kimberlin can’t help but agree.
“We had a couple from Atlanta, and that’s where the Atlanta Aquarium is located, of course,” Kimberlin said. “And the Atlanta Aquarium is probably considered the best at this point. After going through a hard hat tour, they said ‘oh this is much better.'”
A long list of conservationists and wildlife corporations are invited to the wonders of wildlife gala later this week. For Springfield’s tourism sector, they represent more than an impressive list of names.
“That is a shopping list for conventions for us now,” Kimberlin said. “Those people will want to come to Springfield to have conventions, because of Wonders of Wildlife.”
KOLR10 will have live coverage on Daybreak in the week leading up to the grand opening.