2016 will be a busy time for Hattiesburg tourism officials. They'll be making some very visible improvements to the Hattiesburg Zoo and working behind the scenes at the historic Eureka School to renovate it as a civil rights museum.
In March, a new cafe' called, The "Safari Grill" is scheduled to open on the former site of the Zoo's concession stand. It will have an improved menu and a deck overlooking the Zoo's lake.
Tourism officials said some larger birds will probably be added to the South American and African Veldt exhibits.
They also said they are planning to open a "Wallaby Walk-Through," which will feature not only Wallabies, but also other Australian or Asian animals.
Also, they said they are working on a new project to re-develop the north end of the zoo along Hardy Street. The $1.4 million dollar plan, which is in the design phase, could result in the addition of a new lion exhibit.
The state has provided half of the funds for that project.
"2016 (at the zoo) is a mix of small improvements, a great concession stand and planning for that next big leap forward," said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention and Tourism Commissions.
Across town at the historic Eureka School building, Phase IV of renovation is wrapping up. It includes work on most of the floors, ceilings and walls in the two-story structure.
It has also included the addition of an elevator.
Later this year, work will likely start on a new phase, which will focus on plumbing, electrical and air-conditioning.
"Once we complete that, that historic building will be completely renovated," Taylor said. "And then, the next phase is, of course, the addition and installation of the museum components themselves."
Taylor said the museum could open in late 2018.