all community projects

John Ball Zoo

Tigers of the Realm Exhibit
Grand Rapids, MI
24,000 sf (habitats and holding areas)

Located on the south end of the expanded IDEMA Forest Realm, this project was built in two separate phases.

This phase opened in June 2014. It included a main Tiger Habitat very similar to the tigers’ native forests found in eastern Russia. It also includes a holding/breeding facility with six dens, a rest area with bathrooms, concession stand and viewing areas for visitors. The holding/breeding facility makes John Ball Zoo eligible to participate in the Tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP) and play a crucial role in propagation of the species and inspiring people to help save wild tigers. Each den has a guillotine door system, radiant heated floors, skylights, drinkers, feeder shoots and steel resting benches.

This portion of the project included tiger trails and an additional flex habitat. Phase 2 opened to the public in June 2015.


  • A massive concrete dig barrier was poured below the fence perimeter of habitat areas. The dig barrier is 4-feet-deep and 1-foot-thick. It prevents the tigers from digging out of the exhibit. In the main habitat alone, the dig barrier spans 375 linear feet.
  • The flex habitat (part of Phase 2) has a two-inch thick laminated tempered glass barrier installed semi-under water.
  • The creation of authentic-looking rocks (part of Phase 2), complete with waterfalls and ponds, was constructed out of a reinforced shotcrete material.
Tigers of the Realm