A big day today at the Erie Zoo, with the opening of the new $700,000 lion exhibit.

The outdoor area is protected by thick glass that gives zoo visitors an up close look at the big cats.

Two young females that arrived at the zoo last fall were enjoying their new surroundings, and interacting with plenty of children who were at the zoo today for school outings.

The zoo's older female lion remained inside.

The exhibit was supposed to open in March, but our severe winter delayed things.

But now that it is open, managers and visitors expect it to be a big hit.

Zoo visitor Sarah Schafer said, "Oh we love it. A real improvement to the zoo. It is really neat that the kids can get so close. The glass goes all the way down. They love it."

While the exhibit is now open, a large tarp still separates the lions from a jaguar exhibit to give the cats time to get used to being so close.