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One of the "lookouts" along the Treetop Trail at the Minnesota Zoo that's outfitted with Renkus-Heinz UBX Series loudspeakers.

Renkus-Heinz Reaches New Heights Along The Minnesota Zoo’s Treetop Trail

Texas-based True North Consulting Company equips new elevated pedestrian loop's "lookouts" with UBX Series loudspeakers to deliver spoken-word presentations and support smaller musical performances.

The new Treetop Trail, a 1.25-mile elevated pedestrian loop at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, includes several “lookouts” equipped with UBX Series loudspeakers from Renkus-Heinz in serving as areas of interest in which zoo docents inform visitors about the area they’re in or animals they can see as well as hosting small-scale musical performances.

The Treetop Trail is based on the zoo’s monorail track, which ceased operation in 2013 because the trains were outdated and would cost too much to renovate. Instead, zoo leadership took the opportunity to repurpose the track that would have otherwise been removed and scrapped. Plans to repurpose the old monorail began in 2018 with the ceremonial groundbreaking occurring in 2022.

Prior to breaking ground, zoo staff contacted the Texas-based True North Consulting Company (TNCG) to design the AV system for the walking path. Jiggs Lee, a senior consultant with TNCG, was responsible for recommending Renkus-Heinz to Jon Martin, True North’s director of design services.

“The company turned to me because I have a lot of experience with loudspeakers and am familiar with the location and its environmental extremes,” says Lee. “Number one, we needed a loudspeaker that can function in Minnesota’s outdoor environment, which can get down to -25 degrees F in the winter and triple digits in the summer because the trail will be open year-round. Secondly, we needed a loudspeaker with a wide horizontal dispersion that focused the sound on where people’s ears are instead of splashing it all over the place. My previous experience working with Renkus-Heinz’s loudspeakers made me think UBX would be the perfect fit.”

Under the direction of Micah Ramsey, True North’s project manager, 18 UBX4 loudspeakers were installed at the lookouts along the trail, which range in size from 12 x 20 feet across where they bump out to 12 x 90 feet across. Many of the larger lookouts have built-in seating for visitors to sit and watch a presentation.

The UBX4 offers a slender cabinet to better blend into the environment while delivering vertical pattern control. All models in the UBX Series are weather-resistant (IP64) with the included gland nut-protected input cover. The included 70/100-volt transformer, wall-mount bracket and standard weather resistance are designed to make UBX loudspeakers simpleer to integrate.

“I think the Treetop Trail is going to be an extraordinary addition to the Minnesota Zoo,” Lee concludes. “And even though the audio doesn’t play an equal role when compared to the visual grandeur of the animals and environment, I’m still really excited that Renkus-Heinz gets to play a role in that experience.”


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