Kelly: Travel website hails Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo as largest in world - Omaha.com
Published Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:30 am
From the Notebook
Kelly: Travel website hails Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo as largest in world

The Omaha zoo has received another big accolade: “largest” in the world.

Our Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is not the world's biggest zoo in area, but the travel website touropia.com ranks it as the largest by combining geographic size with number of species.

It's an unusual methodology, but Omaha zoo Director Dennis Pate said: “We'll take it.”

Touropia ranks the Columbus Zoo in Ohio as eighth-largest, the Moscow Zoo seventh and the San Diego Zoo sixth.

The Toronto Zoo is No. 5, the Bronx Zoo is No. 4, the Beijing Zoo is No. 3 and the Beijing Zoological Garden is No. 2.

And there at the top sits Omaha.

“Although there are bigger zoos in terms of acreage or species numbers,” the site says, “none rank as high as the Henry Doorly Zoo if both these categories are combined. For this reason, it is listed here as the largest zoo in the world.”

Touropia also notes that the Omaha zoo features the largest cat complex in North America, the world's largest indoor desert and the largest geodesic dome.

Pate, who has led the zoo for four years, paid tribute to his predecessor, Dr. Lee Simmons. “Doc built something special here.”

The zoo, which also has been ranked best by TripAdvisor, Huffington Post and Family Fun magazine, is listed as having 130 acres and 17,000 animals of 962 species.

Last year it set its attendance record, exceeding 1.7 million visitors.

With the razing of nearby Rosenblatt Stadium, Dennis said, parking spaces are increasing by nearly 50 percent, to about 3,000.

He said the high rankings result from a positive “visitor experience” that people report to various websites.

“Some people come here not knowing what to expect, and they leave loving it,” he said. “It's easy to get around, we have some iconic exhibits, and every turn of the corner surpasses expectations.

“Hang on to your hat, because it's only going to get better.”

Diane Darling of Boston, who attended her first Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting last month, left with a great impression of Omaha.

“The warmth and caring from everyone in Omaha was infectious,” she wrote to The World-Herald. “Random conversations with strangers on escalators and in lines became the norm. The experience was invigorating and inspiring.”

A public speaker and small-business owner, she came to Omaha shortly after the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Diane said much of the money conversation in America is about money and greed. By contrast, “to be in a room with people who wanted to learn and share was healing.”

In Omaha, some people gripe about the parking fee in the lots near the CenturyLink Center. Not Diane.

“I gasped loudly when I saw parking was only $8 for the day, not the first 30 minutes,” she said. “I was definitely not in Boston.”

Fresh off a five-week tour entertaining at U.S. military bases in Europe, Omaha native Natalie Sullivan visited her hometown over Memorial Day weekend.

Now she's back in New York, doing what aspiring performers do: looking for a show.

“Auditions are insane,” she said in Omaha. “You get up at 5 a.m., put your name on a list, kind of hop around town to studios and wait in line. When it's your turn, you go in and sing eight to 16 bars. Then you leave and kind of hope.

“In audition season, from January through May, you could potentially go to 20 auditions a week.”

She has been cast as a background character in TV's “Smash” and others.

“Film is completely different from theater,” she said. “Some film scenes might take six to eight hours. Nothing compares to live theater.”

At 23, she has time on her side and she is persistent. She also has a day job in Manhattan, working with theater box offices.

The daughter of John and Patricia Sullivan graduated from Duchesne Academy and the University of Tulsa.

Her European tour was as an actor-director with the Missoula Children's Theater, putting on shows with the children of military personnel. She herself began performing as a child in Omaha.

“I fell in love with acting and storytelling through song,” she said. “I kind of developed this love and passion for it.”

For decades, Bob and Patti Griffiths of Omaha celebrated their June 5 wedding anniversary with a tailgate champagne party at the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium.

The old ballpark is gone, replaced by a new one downtown, and the CWS is played later in June than it used to be. On Wednesday, 10 days before the start of this year's series, the couple will celebrate an anniversary with their family — their 60th.

They still look forward to the CWS, and Bob still sells ticket books as a longtime member of the Concord Club, one of eight service clubs that welcome the eight teams each year.

People aren't as clubby as they once were. Bob said his club once had 114 members and now is down to about 20. But the CWS tradition is strong.

“I definitely miss Rosenblatt,” he said, “but I love the new stadium.”

About 2,000 people attended a rousing mixed martial arts competition over Memorial Day weekend as a benefit for injured military personnel.

A big event was a showdown in which Corey Davis of Omaha, representing the Army, outlasted the Marines' Ikaika Kang of Manhattan, Kan.

OWH Columnists
Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.

The event at the Ramada Plaza Omaha Hotel & Convention Center near 72nd and Grover Streets raised money for the Wounded Warriors Family Support.

Visiting Amsterdam last week, Ryan Haney of Omaha was surprised to see a friend from Omaha, Kevin Cooper.

“Really, Kevin,” Ryan joshed, “you followed me here?”

After the laughter, the pair joined Ryan's brother, Matt, and Kevin's buddy, Greg Schwietz, at a bakery. Each enjoyed Bossche bol, which Ryan described as “a softball-sized, cream-filled pastry dipped in chocolate.”

Presumably they spent the next few hours walking off their treat.

Joan Squires, president of Omaha Performing Arts, will be honored Monday as the Omaha Press Club's latest Face on the Barroom Floor.

Joan, who oversees the Holland Performing Arts Center and Orpheum Theater, came to Omaha in 2002.

A cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m. will be followed by a roast and toast at 6:30 p.m. The event is open to the public at the club, on the 22nd floor of the First National Center, 16th and Dodge Streets.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1132, michael.kelly@owh.com

Contact the writer: Michael Kelly

mike.kelly@owh.com    |   402-444-1000

Mike writes three columns a week on a variety of topics.

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