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Zoo opens polar visitor centre, restaurant on suitably chilly day

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The people who run the Assiniboine Park Zoo picked a fittingly cold day — minus 31 C no less — to unveil part of its new polar bear attraction.

Today marks the official opening of the new Tundra Grill & Polar Playground, a $6.8-million building that will serve as one of three locations from which Winnipeggers and tourists will be able to view the bears.

People will be able to enjoy a snack in a 150-seat restaurant and watch as the bears come right up to a bank of three-metre-high windows along a 30-metre wall.

The facility also features interactive displays, two slides for kids and two birthday party rooms that will accommodate 24 kids each. There’s also a gift store.

It’s part of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s $200-million zoo redevelopment program.

Organizers of a media tour had planned to have a busload of kids come to try out the indoor playground, but they couldn’t make it. It was too cold to run the school bus.

City Coun. Paula Havixbeck, one of three city councillors on hand for this morning’s opening, said the zoo redevelopment will be a tremendous showpiece for the city.

"Together with all of the other projects happening throughout our city, the park and the zoo will be yet another draw to put Winnipeg on the map and on the tourists’ radar," Havixbeck said.

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