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Komodo Dragon Exhibit to Open at Phoenix Zoo; Funded by $1 Million Marley Foundation Grant

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The great wealth amassed by infamous Arizonan Kemper Marley Sr., who died in 1990, has ensured the man's name will be heard -- and seen -- for years to come.

The guy had ties to the mob and a generally bad reputation (except when it came to making money). He was implicated, though never charged, in the fatal bombing of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles in 1976. But you can still visit the Marley Building at the University of Arizona (despite calls for a name change) and the Arizona Historical Society's Marley Center in Tempe.

But now comes what could be the most appropriate use of the Marley name: A new Phoenix Zoo exhibit of carnivorous reptiles funded by a $1 million grant from the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation.

The Zoo calls its new Komodo dragon exhibit, which opens to the public on November 11, "Land of the Dragons."

Given Marley's legacy, though, perhaps it should be called "Kemper Marley's Land of Cold-Blooded Killers."

That being (crassly) said of the deceased, the water-and-land exhibit sounds like a hoot. According to the Zoo's news release:

"It's been years since the zoo has built an animal exhibit of this magnitude," says Bert Castro, President and CEO of the Phoenix Zoo. "As one of the major components in the Phoenix Zoo's world class transformation, Land of the Dragons generated tremendous excitement even before construction began. Now we're ready to open, thanks in large part to the generosity of the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation..."

Oh, and that Marley Center we mentioned in Tempe? Well, the name is still on the building, but few people call it that anymore. At some point -- we're not sure when -- the museum began going by a different name: The Museum at Papago Park.

We phoned up Peter Welsh, the museum's director, to ask when the name changed. He says it happened before he arrived, which was about 18 months ago, though there was apparently nothing official.

"I think they were looking for something more descriptive," Welsh says of the change.

Sure they were. More descriptive, and less... Kemper Marley.

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