Wild Connection: SUMMER 2015


beach pick up trash

The Monterey Bay Aquarium team hits the beach for a little fun in the sun.

Conservation Community Action

Making a difference, one item at a time

This year, all SSA accounts will be making a difference in conservation related projects within their community.  Units will partner with their client, community group or charity to offer time to help make a difference locally while documenting the team building process.  From lake and creek clean-ups, parking lot sweeps, to public garden plantings and Terracycle collecting among others, the Conservation Teams will make a difference.  By keeping trash from impacting local habitats or helping to plant flowers that can help species thrive, this will help further educate staff in how taking one action at a time, they can make an impact.

Recently, the team from the Monterey Bay Aquarium held an Earth Day local beach clean-up.  After Memorial Day, the team and MBA staff cleaned the many streets and bike paths around the Aquarium.

Trash buckets, gloves, and pickers to collect were provided to participants.   Save Our Shores, a local Santa Cruz conservation organization, assisted at the beach clean-up and helped out at the bike path event.   The Monterey Bay Aquarium was able to have wonderful volunteers from Hope Services assist in the bike path event.

Bryce Leo, MBA – SSA Conservation/Sales Supervisor said, “In planning this project, I was thinking about was our staff and how I wanted them to participate in a tangible effort to clean up a highly visited area.”

Results of both efforts prevented numerous items from making it into the bay, ocean, or sewers, thus saving potential impacts to habitats.   Bryce said, “I was most surprised that this path, one of the most heavily used, besides Cannery Row, had only one visible trash receptacle.  Unfortunately we found nearly 3,500 cigarette butts considering there is only one cigarette disposal receptacle present in this area.“


Jambo Grill: The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s New State of the Art Dining Facility


New and healthier food choices are now available at the newly opened Jambo Grill at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.  The new menu accommodates a variety of diets with items like a quinoa and amaranth veggie burger and gluten-free buns and pizza crusts.  Other menu items include gourmet pizzas, hand-tossed salads, fresh deli sandwiches, kid’s meals and of course, burgers and chicken tenders.

With a safari theme, the restaurant features wood paneling and steep ceilings. Jambo means welcome in Swahili, and entices visitors to not only satisfy their taste buds but to immerse themselves into wildlife.  The zoo’s largest restaurant has increased its seating capacity for up to 300 people – 160 indoor and 140 outside on an expanded deck offering a panoramic view of giraffes, cheetahs, zebras and elephants.

In July 2014, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo experienced an electrical fire in the SSA office area below the main Gift Shop.  Unfortunately the offices, gift shop and all shop inventory suffered smoke damage. However, the SSA staff came together in one day to set up a temporary gift shop with help from the Denver Zoo.  While unfortunate, the incident provided an opportunity to remodel the gift shop. With a very tight budget the SSA team was able to give the store a completely new look.  Area General Manager Todd Langfield reports that the team has received great comments across the board from the client and guests — and almost immediately, the sales numbers increased.

New York City trip

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Newly Renovated Gift Ship



Collaboration enabled the SSA Retail Team to work with the Milwaukee County Zoo to provide the zoo and its guests an amazing retail experience.  To support the Expedition Dinosaur special exhibit, a SSA  team assisted the zoo staff in building a temporary gift shop after months of planning.  SSA’s Visual Director Neil Almalbis said the project exceeded the expectations of our friends at the zoo.

Retail 6

Our Retail Experts Assist The Milwaukee County Zoo



After two years of planning and rebuilding as almost everything in the 360-acre park except the historic Bridge was destroyed by a fire, May 8th was the official grand re-opening of the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. SSA hosted a fantastic event that included amazing food and live music. Executive Chef Beau Green created a party spread that included whiskey-and-Coke-braised short ribs; poutine with a 60-hour gravy and house-smoked mozzarella; buttermilk-fried-chicken sliders with Palisade peach mustard and prickly pear iced shortbread cookies.  Some of the new culinary amenities include the Bridge View BBQ, where the culinary crew uses an 850-pound Southern Pride smoker to cook tasty flavorful meats.  Café 1230 in the new Visitor Center features a bar, a full menu and one of the most scenic vistas in the area.  Menu items include pizza, Cheesy Big Boy, a hamburger cooked to order, and the Whistlin Dixie Fried Chick Sammy as well as salads.  The name for the sit-down restaurant came from the fact that it’s 1,230 feet above the river.

cliff side patio (1)cafe 1230



KM & Tim

SSA can only thrive when it employs dedicated, professional employees, and these workers are the face of our industry.  Read on so you can get to know two new employees at the Honolulu Zoo a little better.

imati honolulu zooClift Imai is the new Store Manager at the Honolulu Zoo Gift Shop.  With this job, he said he feels he has come full circle in a career that has spanned 35 years in sales and marketing.  He and his wife Gwen have a son (25) and two daughters (24 and 22).  His hobbies and interests begin and end with sports.  A former resident of L.A., he loves Dodgers and Angels baseball.  Not a surprise as he played baseball for Long Beach City College, as 3rd Baseman & Utility Infielder.  He looks forward to visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and grandchildren!


huang head shotRecent college graduate En-Tien (Grace) Huang is the new project manager at the Honolulu Zoo where she is using her international business management and communication studies degree.  She was born and raised in Taiwan.  As a successful high school diver, she was offered a full-ride diving scholarship at University of Nevada (Reno).  During her four years of competition, she won several individual titles and earned numerous honors.  Grace was named conference diver of the year once and won two individual titles in the conference championships.  She has placed numerous times in the top three during conference championships.  In her final year of competition, Grace earned honorable mention All-America honors.  She hopes to represent Taiwan at the 2016 Olympic Games in springboard diving.  She also likes to ride horses, hang out at the beach and go on road trips.


Grace hopes to represent Taiwan at the 2016 Olympic Games in springboard diving.

travis kightSince 2012, the Seafood Watch staff at the Monterey Bay Aquarium has invited leading chefs and culinarians from across the United States to Monterey to share their challenges and ideas about seafood sustainability, the work of the Seafood Watch program and their role in insuring a future with healthy oceans.  This year, SSA Corporate Executive Chef Travis Kight and Monterey Bay Aquarium SSA Executive Chef Matthew Beaudin were selected to participate in the Blue Ribbon Task Force.  Some of the other 53 participants included Rick Bayliss, Hugh Acheson, Richard Blais, Susan Feniger, Rick Moonen and Cindy Pawlcyn.

matthew-beaudin copyAlso, Andrew Fischer, Monterey Bay Aquarium GM, Ron Hall, VP, Procurement, and Chefs Travis Kight and Matt Beaudin, joined 200 industry experts in Monterey CA for the bi-annual Seafood Watch Foodservice Convening.  The intense three-day meeting covered dozens of topics, including Managing Supply Chains for Sustainability and Social Justice, Chemical and Antibiotic Use in Agriculture,  Global Fisheries and National Food Policies.



The Sacramento and Houston Zoos as well as Zoo Miami have selected new CEOs

Kyle Dr. Kyle Burks, a former Denver Zoo official, has been chosen to lead the Sacramento Zoo. He helped open Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park in 1997.  He held several positions at the animal park at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, including training operations managers to work with animals and managing a wildlife tracking center. He holds a bachelor’s degree in experimental psychology from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology.  He joined the Denver Zoo as executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2008 and oversaw day-to-day operations, including veterinary and daily care of animals, education, conservation and human resources.  He served as interim president and chief executive officer for several months until February 2014.

He succeeds Mary Healy, who was director for 15 years until her passing in August 2014.

Zoo Miami Director Eric Stephens retired the end of April after 35 years.  He was director for 17 years.  He graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science, Park and Recreation Administration.  Carol Kruse, the zoo’s assistant director from 2003 until 2011, was named to the top spot.  Kruse has been an employee of the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department since 1990.  From April of 2011 until February 2015, she was the department’s assistant director of administration.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Florida Atlantic University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University.

Deborah Cannon retires as the president and CEO of the Houston Zoo in August after holding the position for more than 10 years.  During her tenure, attendance has grown from 1.4 million to 2.35 million, membership has quadrupled and the staff has doubled.   Rick Barongi, the fifth zoo director since the zoo’s founding in 1922, also is retiring.

LeeThe next President and CEO at the Houston Zoo will be Lee Ehmke.  He starts his new job September 8, 2015.

Emke was the  Director/Chief Executive of the Minnesota Zoological Garden and President of the Minnesota Zoo Foundation.

He also serves as the elected President of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), a global association of more than 300 member institutions, which serves as a catalyst for their joint action on behalf of biodiversity and habitat conservation and sustainability.  Prior to joining the Minnesota Zoo, Ehmke was the director of Planning and Design at New York’s Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), headquartered at the Bronx Zoo.  Originally trained and practicing as a land use attorney, Ehmke received a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of California at Berkeley.



The Buffalo Museum of Science was named the “Best Museum in Buffalo” on Artvoice Best of Buffalo 2015 list.

For the fifth consecutive year, Zoo Miami has been awarded the “Certificate of Excellence” by TripAdvisor, an award reserved for spots that receive excellent reviews from travelers on the popular website.  As a result, Zoo Miami is now the first-time TripAdvisor “Hall of Fame” honoree.  This year is the first time such an award has been distributed.


In the first time in more than a decade the Houston Zoo has gorillas on exhibit for the public after nearly four years of fundraising and construction of the state-of-the-art facility for the western lowland gorillas to roam, climb, and explore.  The landscape is about two-thirds of an acre.  Guests, separated by fences or safety glass, also will be able to watch the gorillas in their indoor shelter, which is about 4,000 square feet. Currently there are seven residents of the exhibit, Zuri, 31; his mate Holli, 25; Sufi, their 13-year-old daughter; and another older female, Binti.  In addition to this unit is a trio of bachelors that consist of Chaka, 30; Mike, 23; and Ajari, 14.  They spend most of their time in a room is equipped with ropes, hammocks, platforms and a 23-foot climbing tree.

The Detroit Zoo recently opened its latest animal habitat and introduced its newest residents.  The $1.4 million Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness is a two-acre naturalistic habitat that features grassy hills and meadows, native Michigan trees, a flowing stream and pond, dens and elevated rock outcroppings.  The habitat is home to two gray wolves: seven-year-old female and a five-year-old male.  The Canadian-born wolves arrived from the Minnesota Zoo.

The Los Angeles Zoo opened a jaguar exhibit as part of its Rainforests of America exhibit.  The new residents are Koala, Stewie and Johar. Stewie and Johar are a male and female jaguar couple, and Koala is an adult male.  The new 7,100-square-foot habitat contains a waterfall and pool, deadwood and ficus trees, banana plants and tall grasses.  Visitors to the zoo can see the trio via two glass viewing areas.  Jaguars are a “near threatened” species, most often found in Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina and Brazil.  They are third largest cat species.


Sixty life-size or larger-than-life animal replicas created by sculptor Ron Holthuysen recently debuted the San Francisco Zoo.  This $750,000 project, called the Sculpture and Learning Plaza, embraces a national trend in zoos to enhance the learning experience with lifelike museum-quality models you can pet without losing a hand.  Sculptures include a coiled Burmese python with snaky skin, two bronze bats hanging by their feet, a snarling Tasmanian devil, a hammerhead shark with teeth so sharp they can rip flesh, and a whale snout with a polyurethane eye that can look right through you.

Five critically endangered, non-releasable rescued Hawaiian monk seals made their public debut recently in Discovery Bay at the Minnesota Zoo, which is the only location in the continental United States where the public can see these amazing animals on exhibit.  These fascinating creatures are presented with the new interpretive theme “Our Oceans, Our Choices” that is designed to inspire awareness and a desire to act on behalf of ocean wildlife.  There are only two species of monk seals left in the world – the Hawaiian and the Mediterranean – and both species are considered endangered.  In 2008 a third species – the Caribbean monk seal – was officially declared extinct because none had been seen since the early 1950s. It has been estimated that only 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals are left in existence, and that number is still declining.

Two new exhibits recently opened at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden.  Grizzly Ridge and Otter Run marks the first in a series of projects slated for completion over the next several months as part of Destination Riverbanks—the Zoo’s $36-million expansion.

Guests at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo can now add a trip to The Reef to their Australian Adventure itinerary.  The exhibit features a 17,000-gallon saltwater tank depicting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  The gallery now resembles an old cannery warehouse in an Australian seaside town.  Formerly carpeted and dimly lit, the gallery now features exposed brick, rustic beams, and colorful signage.

A new South American exhibit recently opened at Zoo Boise.  The habitat features a mixed species exhibit, which include penguins, Inca terns, an armadillo and capybaras.

Featuring first run films, on the largest screen in the region, the Denver Mart Drive In incorporates a digital projection system, with FM transmissions, to provide the ultimate viewing experience on a 3,480-square-foot outdoor movie screen.  The Drive In can cater up to 310 vehicles, and the concession stand provides delicious food and beverages to accompany the nightly double features.


Another Night At The Popular Denver Attraction



Pretend City Children’s Museum will ride “Hallyu” (the Korean Wave) with the debut of a special exhibit that digs right into the heart and soul of the culture.  Heart and Seoul: Growing Up in Korea aims to bring modern-day South Korea to Orange County, which is home to the third largest Asian community in the United States.

Kids are learning to save the world, one action at a time at Discovery Gateway and its special interactive exhibit.  Designed with “green” materials and practices, this super exhibit gives kids real super hero training starting with the four Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle!  The Exhibit features seven interactive areas: The House, Farmer’s Market, Garden, Research Lab, Re-Use Charity Shop, Reduce Fuel Station, Recycle Center.  It’s ordinary kids making a difference.  It’s Super Kids Save the World!

The names, Gumby, Barbie, Slinky, Mr. Potato Head, Wham-O and Hot Wheels may bring back memories of the craziness, the joy, the sheer fun of being a kid.  But beneath those nutty names are rich veins of nostalgia, memory and history.  The stories of the kids who played with these toys, the adults who bought them, the child-rearing experts who judged them and the people who invented them reflect the rhythms of American life.  Toys of the ’50s, 60’s and ’70s is a playful traveling exhibit developed by the Minnesota History Center, and will be at the History Colorado Center through October 4.



TKM 2015 J3 023
The third annual T. Kevin McNicholas Foundation’s Golf Tournament occurred Monday, July 20th, 2015 at the Park Hill Golf Club.
Shaking things up a little this year, the Foundation moved the tournament into the heart of Denver for its friends and donors.
Local partners such as Dave Steiner with accounting and auditing firm EKS&H, Gene Sullivan with Wells Fargo, Matt Keeney with marketing and advertising company AOR, Inc., and Lou Clinton withFirst Western Trust were enthusiastic competitors in the day’s events.  Other sponsors included US Foods, Charles ProductsRegis Jesuit High School, Denver Mart, Hale / Westfall LLC,  Johnson & Wales University, Butler Rents, ACIM, CP Cooks, K&M International, Centerplate, Jim & Kathleen Potter, Jim & Michele Stowers, Campbell Killin Brittan & Ray, LLC, Whirley Drinkworks, Dippin’ Dots, International Animal Exchange, Stratex, Mike Marcely, Aurora World, Taylor of the Rockies, Kevin & Jennifer Eldredge, Mark & Scott Schroeder, E&J Gallo Wines, Tulsa
TKM 2015 J3 013Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Marriott – Denver  Stapleton, Kevin & Mary McNicholas, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, the Cincinnati Field Office (Eric Loyall, Travis Kight, Nick Rado), Tim & Alison Brantley, Sean & Audra McNicholas, K-M Concessions, and Service Systems Associates, Inc.
Also spotted on the course were Mary McNicholas and her hearty crew of volunteers, Audra McNicholas and Shannon Fitzgerald with their daughters in the Clubhouse, and a large number of SSA executives who were able to make the trip.
The annual event netted over $114,000.00 for the Foundation, allowing it to extend its outreach to more high schools, trade schools, and colleges / universities in the region and
around the country, including Regis Jesuit High School, the Colorado Restaurant Association Education Foundation, Benedictine College, the College of St. Benedict, Johnson & Wales University, and many more.
TKM 2015 J1 001
On Key

Related Posts

Cultural Attraction Trends to Look for in 2024

In the new year, keep an eye out for some of the movements that are shaping our industry.  Retail The revival of physical stores is offering unique, immersive in-store experiences.  SSA’s Community Tables and Marketplace

Our Top Stories of 2023

As we enter 2024, let’s reflect on our top stories from the last year. Here’s a recap of our top 3 blogs that resonated the most with you!  1. “Table Stakes for Cultural Attractions in

Meet Our Partner: The Konery

Who doesn’t love a waffle cone? But have you had one that is Birthday Cake flavor? Or Toasted Coconut?   Meet The Konery, a partner to SSA and our many zoo, museum and aquarium attractions across