NC Zoo closes early after reaching max capacity

Posted on: 2:05 pm, April 1, 2013, by , updated on: 06:27am, April 2, 2013

The N.C. Zoo closed temporarily Monday to visitors but reopened as guests began to leave the park by mid-afternoon( NC Zoo photo by Tom Gillespie)

The N.C. Zoo closed temporarily Monday to visitors but reopened as guests began to leave the park by mid-afternoon( NC Zoo photo by Tom Gillespie)

ASHEBORO, N.C. — The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro is closing early Monday because it has reached its maximum capacity, according to a spokesperson.

Around 2 p.m., Zoo spokesman Tom Gillespie said the park could not accept any additional visitors for the remainder of the afternoon.

However, officials said additional guests were allowed to enter later in the afternoon as other visitors began to leave the park.

The occasion marked the second time the zoo has ever temporarily closed its gates due to reaching maximum or overflow capacity.

Officials said Monday’s attendance was at 12,775 by 4 p.m.  The park’s one-day attendance record is 17,499 — a free-admission day in 1994; and the park’s paid-admission attendance record is 15,041 — set in September that same year.

Zoo spokesman Rod Hackney told FOX8 the park is designed to “comfortably” accommodate 8,000 people.  In recent years, the park started limiting the maximum number of guests it would allow inside because the higher volume of attendees “causes so many problems for staff as well as visitors,” Hackney said.

In additional to Monday’s pleasant forecast and the fact that many school children are on spring break this week, a contributing factor could be that the zoo just reintroduced its popular “Dinosaurs” exhibit.

The exhibit, which features life-size, hydraulic-powered dinosaur replicas, entertained zoo visitors during its debut eight-month stay in 2012.

Officials said the exhibit helped the park set attendance records last year. Nearly 240,000 people, which makes up more than 35 percent of the zoo’s annual visitors, toured the exhibit between April and November.

A new cast of creatures are featured this year.  Among the featured species will be Giganotosaurus, which will take the place of the Tyrannosaurus Rex in the new collection.