Officials at the Calgary Zoo are crediting the new penguin exhibit with helping bring in a record number of visitors in 2012.

More than 1.45 million people passed through the zoo gates last year, breaking the previous record set in 1988 by 100,00 visitors.

"That's the year we always used as our pinnacle year and so to be able to beat that was extraordinary," said zoo spokesperson Trish Exton-Parder.

She says the launch of the Penguin Plunge exhibit in February 2012 proved to be a big draw.

"They were a tremendous hit from the moment people had an opportunity to see these little black and white birds."

Financial Impact

The boost in attendance and revenue is expected to help fund research programs underway at the Calgary Zoo and provide money for upgrading facilities.

"It's a facility that's been around since 1929, so obviously there are times when we have to refurbish buildings and continually upgrade," said Exton-Parder.

The zoo is not predicting another record setting year for 2013 as no new exhibits are planned.