Riverbanks Zoo and Garden brings back its Free Fridays program for the New Year – and the first one is tomorrow.

Complimentary admission will be offered to residents of Richland and Lexington counties each Friday during January and February.

The offer is extended to those residents because Riverbanks is a special purpose district that supplements its operating budget with property taxes collected in both counties.

Zoo officials say it's an exciting year because Riverbanks will observe its 40th anniversary in March.

Spokeswoman Susan O'Cain says special events will lead up to that, and soon the zoo will be busy with a $32-million expansion that will feature new exhibits and animals – including some past favorites.

Something that people often ask about are our sea lions, which we had to get rid of a couple of years ago because of some exhibit renovations that we were needing to do here,” O'Cain told WVOC.

So, we are going to be bringing back a sea lion exhibit to the zoo and it's going to sort of resemble Pier 39.  If you have ever been out to San Francisco, this is the pier out in that area that has all the sea lions and seals.”

O'Cain says the expansion project will also include a children's garden in the Botanical Garden, renovated dining and retail facilities and more.