2000s

2001


After closing in the fall of '99 for reconstruction, the Phillips Park Golf Course re-opened on July 14, 2001. The 18 hole course, designed by Greg Martin, now boasts modern features like "USGA" Greens, a computerized irrigation system, multiple tees, larger greens, better overall drainage systems, strategically placed bunkers and water hazards, cart paths, a driving range and a new clubhouse, as well as a three hole Junior Course, resulting in a quality championship caliber golf course. The new driving range has both "All Weather Teeing Surface" for inclement weather and a massive grass tee for a more realistic feel. With three sets of tees, the golf course ranges from 4,760 yards to 6,200 yards, providing a wide range of challenge for varying abilities.

2001


The perimeter fencing project was completed at the Phillips Park Zoo.

2001


A new gray wolf (timber wolf) habitat was added for "Dakota," "Cheyenne" and "Aurora."

2002


A new sledding hill and ice skating rink opened in January at the Winter Recreation Area site, located adjacent to the Aquatic Center. The Aurora Kiwanis Club had taken a special interest in the project by volunteering to plant shrubs, line the pedestrian paths, assemble decorative sponsorship benches, and contribute the necessary funds. In 2002 a bunny hill was added.

2002


Fountains, donated by the Friends of Phillips Park, were added to Mastodon Lake in 2002, resulting in a more calming atmosphere, while keeping the lake clean. The year prior, the shoreline was cleared of dense shrubbery that opened up the lake view.

2002


The main level build out of the Administration Building was completed and the Old Pro Shop was renovated for use by The First Tee junior golf program.

2002


A special security detail was initiated in May of 2002 to protect the city's large investment of property at the park, and security cameras were installed to ward off vandalism. Routine patrols on foot, bicycle and by vehicle are used to issue tickets for nuisance behavior, such as reckless driving and alcohol consumption. New park hours were established and security gates were installed the year prior, as additional security measures.

2002


The Official Dedication Ceremony for the Re-Opening of the Sunken Garden was held on Tuesday, June 25 at 4 p.m. The renovation project, which began in February of that year, included a handicap accessible multi-level walkway system, irrigation, benches, urns, and plantings to consist of annuals, ornamental grasses, shrubs and topiaries. The addition of a three-tiered fountain, complete with lights, is the center focal point of the garden. The addition of the "Four Seasons" statues, donated by Wally Mundy of WE. Mundy Landscaping and Garden Center and Mike Schoppe of Schoppe Design Associates, was another new feature. The statues each represent one of the four seasons and are situated in the corners of the garden. An entry gate was also added, allowing patrons access from the garden to the zoo. The new Hostas Garden lines the common area, with plants donated by individuals and organizations from throughout the community, which were planted by the Friends of Phillips Park. Cameras were added for security.

2002


The newest addition, "Kenai" the bald eagle, arrived on July 19, 2002. She was obtained through the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, in Anchorage, Alaska. "Kenai" was brought to the rehab center, after having been found in Homer, Alaska unable to fly. She was estimated to be about 6 to 8 years old. It was determined that "Kenai" was not releasable back to the wild, due to a broken wing. Work had begun earlier in the year to prepare the Bird Flight for her arrival. It is housed in a 50 x 25 foot open-air shelter that houses a pond and a waterfall, with a backdrop mural of a mountain setting, painted by Park Maintenance Worker Chris Mascarella.

2002


The Elk Viewing Deck was opened to the public in August, providing an open view of the elk enclosure.

2002


Construction began in the fall on two new girl's softball fields located at Howell Place and Parker Avenue. It will be the future site of Hunt Field, the "Old Timers" Baseball Memorial, home field to the East Aurora High School Lady Tomcats and the Women's Softball Assoc. It was a cooperative project between the City of Aurora's Department of Parks and Recreation and the East Aurora School District Number 131. Hunt Field was named in honor of Dick Hunt, who started Pony League baseball here.

2002


The electrical upgrade project began.

2002


On November 23, 2002 a 9-month old, 240 pound Bengal Tiger "Sierra" was confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, since she was privately, but illegally, owned. She was temporarily housed at the zoo for approximately one month, until the DNR found a permanent home for her at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center in Keenesburg, Colorado.

2002


Friends of Phillips Park donated an all-weather pavilion for the Winter Recreation Area.

2003


Second Bald Eagle "Denali" arrived.

2003


Visitors Center and Mastodon Gallery opened on Tuesday, October 28, 2003. The guest count reached 53,880 in the first full year of operation, with more than 1,065 hours donated by the Volunteer Ambassadors. Facility serves as meeting facility for Southeast Neighbors Association, the Third Ward Committee, the Friends of Phillips Park and the Phillips Park Zoociety. In addition, local service clubs, organizations and church groups utilize facility for park luncheon tours.

2003


Two new women's softball fields were completed at the corner of Howell Place and Ray Moses Drive.

2003


Friends of Phillips Park donated a snow-making machine for the Winter Recreation Area.

2004


The new "Mastodon Express" tram begins operating in June and provides free narrated park tours to 7,621 park patrons.

2004


Scientific Mastodon Dig: Waubonsee Community College, the Illinois State Museum and the City of Aurora mobilized resources to search for additional Mastodon remains. More than 275 volunteers participated in the 11-week excavation at Mastodon Lake from May to August. An abundant amount of material was found that would contribute to proving the scientific significance of the bones unearthed in 1934 and contribute to the understanding of the late Pleistocene geology, climate and paleoecology of northeastern Illinois. The material included plant macrofossils, mollusks, and bones of fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

2004


Record attendance numbers:
  • Visitors to the Zoo tops 182,000 (Including guided tours to over 3,000 students).
  • The Visitors Center and Mastodon Gallery serves over 55,196 guests.
  • The Annual Fall Festival attracts over 12,000 attendees.
  • Free narrated park tours on the Mastodon Express provided to 7,621 park patrons.
  • Santa Station attracts over 2,500 guests at Visitors Center.