A large tourist attraction is going to call North Alabama home.
The North Alabama Zoological Society announced its two locations for a non-profit zoo and a research campus.
The zoological park will be located north of Martin Line Road, south of Tanner. A research campus will be along Limestone Creek, North of Madison. Both destinations will cost $11 million dollars to purchase.
The project in its entirety could take between 7 to 15 years to completely finish. Athens natives, Houston and Will Ramsden said they had no idea a zoo was coming to North Alabama.
"So people in Athens will just have to drive like 10 minutes," said Houston Ramsden.
North Alabama Zoological Society Director, Ethan Woodruff, said phase one of the zoo will take about three years to complete once the non-profit purchases the land. Phase one will start the years-long process to complete all other aspects of the zoo.
"There's the Yellowstone National Park phase, Asia/Africa walking phase, Adventure Trek phase, and then there's the Aquarium," said Woodruff.
Within phase one, Woodruff said they're hoping to welcome 200,000 visitors from all over the state and country. Woodruff also said an estimated $5 million to $7 million may come in as revenue.
In the first phase, the zoo estimates there will be 50 to 100 permanent jobs available and in the summer, 200 more.
As the zoo develops into its large phases, Woodruff expects to see 500 to 800 permanent jobs and 200 more during the summer.
"With this being on the western side, the whole developing corridor, several exits north and several exits south of I-65, will see the benefit of the traffic generated by the zoo," said Bill Chapman of Chapman Commercial Realty.
678 acres will be purchased. The zoo, only taking up 279 acres. That leaves plenty of land on-site for other entities.
"Most likely there will be hotels, restaurants, possibly other types of entertainment venues on-site," said Chapman.
A mile and a half of I-65 will stretch next to the zoo, bringing in families both near and far.
"If we want to grow Huntsville and truly bring people in to fill these 50,000 jobs coming to Huntsville, then we need to have things that attract people," said Orry Moody, a chairperson on the board.
In the United States, this is one of the first times in 45 years that a non-profit zoo has been built from scratch, according to NALZC research.
In its first year of operation, the zoo is hoping to be AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited.
You can donate towards the zoo coming to North Alabama, here.