World-Class 600,000 Gallons Aquarium, New to K.C. Zoo.
Jul 29, 2022
Sean Putney
World-Class 600,000 Gallons Aquarium, New to K.C. Zoo.

Kansas City Zoo Aquarium Update

A world-class aquarium will be opening in 2023 at the Kansas City Zoo to enhance visitors’ experience and open new pathways to ocean conservation, education and research. Zoo visitors will enjoy an up-close and personal experience, beginning at the warm-water shore habitat and traveling “deeper” through mangrove forests, sandy shores, tropical lagoons, and coral reefs. Then they'll “ascend” through a kelp forest and end at a cold-water rocky shore. Each habitat will showcase a variety of fascinating ocean life, immersing visitors in the experience of being at the ocean. The 600,000-gallon aquarium will be situated near Helzberg Penguin Plaza, within easy distance of the front gate and accessible year-round.




Sean Putney

Executive Director/CEO

On January 1, 2022, Sean Putney took the reins of the Kansas City Zoo as its new executive director/CEO. Sean was not a new face at the  Zoo, however, as he had been serving as its Chief Zoological Officer.


A native of Pennsylvania, Sean began his 29-year career at the Catalina Island Marine Institute in California and then spent 12 years at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo working his way up through animal care and curator positions. In 2007, Sean joined the Kansas City Zoo as an animal curator and spent five years in that position before being named Director of Living Collections. In 2016, he became Senior Director of Zoological Operations and in 2019, was promoted to Chief Zoological Officer, overseeing

the Zoo’s animal collection, animal care staff, conservation program, veterinary health department, and facilities.


Sean has been instrumental in the new and renovated animal habitats that have been accomplished at the Kansas City Zoo in the last decade, as well as the increased customer satisfaction the Zoo has achieved. Sean now oversees the biggest project in the Zoo’s history, a $75-million aquarium that will open in 2023. 


Sean has been an active member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the primary accrediting body of zoos and aquariums in the United States. He graduated from the AZA’s Executive Leadership Development Program in 2018 and is a current member of the AZA Government Affairs Committee. He continues to serve as the coordinator of the AZA’s Wyoming Toad Species Survival Plan (SSP), leading efforts to reintroduce this species to its native habitat. He also spent five years as an AZA accreditation inspector.


Recently, Sean spearheaded the Kansas City Zoo’s own accreditation efforts, leading to an extension of the facility’s accreditation to 2026. AZA accreditation is considered the national standard and is granted to less than 10% of animal exhibitors licensed by the USDA.


Sean and wife Cyndie have been married 26 years, have raised

two sons, and are now proud grandparents of one grandson.