Stretch Tents for Hippos

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo approached Tentrix with a Winter engineering challenge: Build a temporary enclosure for the hippo pools to raise the temperature of the basin to a consistent 50 degrees. It had to be clear span, withstand winter storms, and be installed within 10 days. In February. In Colorado.

The Challenge

No, the hippos hadn’t gone soft. There were construction challenges.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of the most scenic zoos in the world. It is situated at 7000ft on the lower slope of Cheyenne Mountain, just South of Colorado Springs, right above the Broadmoor Hotel. Though stunning, the hillside location and expansive soil make for a challenging building environment. The newly constructed hippo and penguin pools had settled, cracked, and were unusable until the pools could be coated with a rubberized sealer – not so simple in February as the environment had to stay warm and dry during the curing period.

Because this was a temporary winter pitch with a 10 day install deadline, we reached a compromise with the contractor on the clearspan. Snowload in that area is 30 pounds per square foot, but the likelihood of encountering a storm of that magnitude in any given winter month is negligible. We committed to enclosing the 5000 square foot space with a clear span for the coating process. During storms , the canopy would be braced and heated to melt the snow off.

We engineered the canopy to be clear span with no precipitation. By dropping the roof we lowered the volume & thus the heating requirements. Skirting around the perimeter allowed us to close off the air-flow.

The canopy was a custom stretch tent build to fit the horsehoe-shaped pool, with a 4ft skirting sewn to the outer edge to trap the heat. Engineered, manufactured, delivered and installed in 10 days, just before the Corona shutdown. Success!

Canopy, no longer clear-span, was modified in preparation for storm that brought 5 inches of snow and 50mph+ winds. The storm blew in two commercial sliding glass doors, but the canopy did just fine. We ran torpedo heaters to raise the surface temperature in case it snowed more than expected.

Temporary construction enclosures are fairly common, but this one was uniquely demanding and our stretch tent solution was a perfect fit.

The canopy was used for only a month so the fabric has many years of life leftover. Trouble is, we fabricated the custom canopy with a very unique shape, and then soiled with hippo poo and overspray.  What to do?  Thankfully, the entire canopy was recommissioned with a new life in the desert of Nevada at the annual Burning Man festival.