Indiana’s Oldest Zoo to Undergo Major Upgrade in the South Bend – Elkhart Region


SOUTH BEND, Ind. (Sept. 12, 2018) -- The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) has approved Regional Cities Initiative funding to support significant improvements at the Potawatomi Zoo, one of the region's most popular quality of place assets. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and state officials will join Potawatomi Zoological Society executives to break ground on the project later today.

"As a state, Indiana is committed to attracting and retaining talent by helping create a better quality of place in communities throughout the state," said IEDC President Elaine Bedel. "The Potawatomi Zoo has been a major attraction in north central Indiana for more than 100 years, and this significant facelift to the zoo's front entrance will enhance the guest experience for families and attract new visitors to South Bend."


This project is the first phase of the Potawatomi Zoo's $37 million master plan to improve visitor experience, address guest circulation and flow, increase revenue opportunities and bolster its position as a community asset and regional attraction. Founded in 1902, the Potawatomi Zoo, Indiana's oldest zoo and one of the most visited cultural attractions in north central Indiana, occupies 23 acres of property north of Potawatomi Park at 500 S. Greenlawn Ave. in South Bend.

This phase of the development will transform the existing front entry into a 3,690-square-foot, state-of-the-art plaza with complementary, concierge-like guest experience to support increased attendance, which has grown by more than 5 percent annually since 2014. The construction, which is set to be complete by spring 2020, will upgrade and streamline the entry process for its guests and enhance the overall experience with new amenities like an ADA-accessible pathway, additional restrooms, vending areas and stroller and wheelchair rental space. Additionally, the Potawatomi Zoo will build a new gift shop at the front entry complex, increasing the zoo's retail revenue by directing traffic by the store.

Project Investment (Phase One): $3 million
State funding: $450,000

"Our city prides itself on its top-notch facilities," said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. "This improvement further enhances one of our most beautiful, most family-friendly spaces. By completing this project with the Regional Cities Initiative, we are further strengthening our ties with the wider area and attracting even more interest and investment to South Bend."

"We are thrilled to receive Regional Cities Initiative funding to support our new front entry project," said Marcy Dean, executive director of the Potawatomi Zoo. "The front entry project provides a catalyst for growth as the first and most important phase of our Master Plan, providing a phenomenal entrance experience into the zoo for our guests and members while adding to the quality of life in our region and increasing our economic impact, educational reach and ability to continue growing as valuable community asset."

Regional Cities Initiative in North Central Indiana:
These projects were recommended for funding by the South Bend - Elkhart Regional Development Authority (RDA) and are part of the region's Smart Connected Communities plan, which was selected to receive $42 million of state grant funding that is currently being deployed in 26 regional development projects in three counties totaling over $400 million in quality of place investments.

North Central Indiana was one of three Indiana regions selected to receive state funding through the Regional Cities Initiative, which will allocate a total of $126 million toward 100 quality of place projects totaling more than $2 billion in combined state, local and private investment in order to retain and attract top talent to the Hoosier state.

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Media Contact:
Abby Gras (IEDC) - 317.232.8845 or
Marcy Dean (Potawatomi Zoo) - 574.340.4090 or
Regina Emberton (South Bend - Elkhart Regional Development Authority) - 574.400.5432 or

About Indiana Regional Cities Initiative
The Indiana Regional Cities Initiative sets a framework for neighboring communities across the state to work together to develop regional visions that are supported by compelling strategic plans focused on quality of place. The initiative will help each region develop a positive and unique national brand to advance the goal of becoming a destination for talent. Passed in 2015 with bipartisan support by the Indiana General Assembly, the initiative is overseen by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. To learn more visit or follow on Twitter at @Indiana_EDC, #INRegionalCities.

About South Bend - Elkhart Regional Partnership
The South Bend - Elkhart Regional Partnership is a collaboration of the economic development partners from 47 smart connected communities in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. The Regional Partnership focuses on a long-term systemic approach to advance the region's economy by aligning the efforts of various stakeholders around five key areas:

  • Educating a world-class WORKFORCE.
  • Recruiting and retaining great TALENT.
  • Attracting and growing new economy companies in complement to our remarkably strong manufacturing INDUSTRIES.
  • Promoting INCLUSION and sparking opportunities for minorities.
  • Helping ENTREPRENEURS thrive.

The Regional Partnership also serves as the Administrator for the South Bend - Elkhart Regional Development Authority (RDA) to allocate Regional Cities Initiative funding to the 26 quality of life projects. The Regional Partnership seeks to unify and collaborate so that together, the communities across the region to work together to achieve what cannot be done individually. For more information about the Regional Partnership, visit