The world's largest indoor desert exhibit, located within the world's largest glazed dome, opened at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo in March 2002. The 13-story structure's main level offers visitors an educational journey through three diverse eco-systems: Africa's Namib Desert, Australia's Red Center and North America's Sonoran Desert. The Desert Dome exhibit was joined in April 2003 by the "Kingdoms of the Night" lower level exhibit. It houses the world's largest indoor nocturnal exhibit.
Construction of the $16.5 million geodesic dome began in October 1999 with construction services provided by Kiewit Construction Company, a subsidiary of Kiewit Corporation. Major items of work included drilling 159 30-ft.-deep belled piers; placing nearly 900 ft. of buried reinforced concrete pipe; pouring two 41,000-sq.-ft. base floor slabs; constructing a 32-ft.-tall concrete ring wall; and erecting and anchoring the 137-ft.-tall glazed dome, which is composed of 1,760 quarter-in.-thick acrylic, triangular-shaped panels. During construction of the slabs and ring wall, crews placed 10,000 tons of concrete and 250 tons of reinforcing steel.
Inside the dome, more than 2,000-ft. of masonry walls enclose animal exhibits, keeper rooms and holding areas. Another 60,000 masonry blocks were used for irregular walls that form the exhibit rockwork's main support.
Visitors can enjoy more than 48 desert animal exhibits, as well as a 30-ft.-tall sand dune, a sand fall, aboriginal cave art renderings, a saguaro cactus forest and a hummingbird canyon.