Balboa Park welcomes two major attractions

SAN DIEGO -- Two major attractions are scheduled to open to the public Saturday in Balboa Park -- the first phase of the San Diego Zoo's $68 million Africa Rocks and an exhibition on computer games at the Fleet Science Center.

The Cape Fynbos penguin habitat in Africa Rocks features a cobblestone beach surface, penguin nesting areas and rockwork that mimics the granite boulders found at Boulders Beach in South Africa. The exhibit also includes 20 African penguins and a dozen leopard sharks swimming in a 200,000-gallon seawater pool.

The eight-acre Africa Rocks project stemmed from an $11 million gift from the since-deceased San Diego philanthropist Conrad Prebys, which inspired more than 4,700 other donors to contribute. San Diego businessman Ernest Rady added $10 million, and Dan and Vi McKinney provided $5 million.

"We cannot wait to share Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks with our zoo members and guests," said Douglas Myers, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global. "Not only is Africa Rocks an incredible new exhibit allowing us to connect people to fascinating African wildlife, but it adds another dimension to San Diego Zoo Global's efforts to save endangered species such as the featured African penguins and lemurs."

Africa Rocks replaces the 1930s-era exhibits of what was formerly Dog and Cat Canyon with an easily accessible, gently winding pathway with state-of- the-art animal habitats and garden spaces for plants, said officials at the zoo, which is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The other five habitats of Africa Rocks include boulder-strewn islands in grassland savanna, a glimpse of the rugged Ethiopian Highlands, a woodland, a Madagascar forest and a West African forest. They're due to open over time this summer as animals move in and become acclimated, according to zoo officials.

"Game Masters: The Exhibition," brings more than 100 playable video and computer games to the Fleet Science Center. Visitors will find a Missile Command arcade game, and samples from Minecraft, The Sims, Mario and many others.

It also includes a high-tech video air hockey game created for the exhibition, which was most recently in Portland, Oregon, according to the museum.

"Game Masters promises to be an amazing behind-the-scenes look at the design and history of video games, plus a nostalgic trip down memory road for some of us old enough to remember the original Pac-Man," said Steve Snyder, museum CEO.

Two featured games are from San Diego developer The Behemoth -- Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers.

Game Masters runs through Jan. 15, 2018. The museum's normal hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, but plans extended hours on Friday nights.