A Tucson animal-rescue organization is breaking ground this morning on what staffers say is Arizona's first state-of-the-art hospital for wildlife.

Lisa Bates, president of the nonprofit Tucson Wildlife Center, said the facility will help staff and volunteers care for the 800 or so injured raptors and mammals it receives each year. The center is on East Speedway, east of Houghton Road.

The groundbreaking is at 9 a.m. at 13275 E. Speedway.

The hospital is expected to cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.

A $575,000 donation from the estate of Arizona resident Sam Goldman will go a long way toward funding the project. The remaining funds will come from donations.

Goldman was a wildlife advocate and, in retirement, traveled the world photographing animals in their natural habitat, Bates said.

"His executors searched three states looking for a wildlife center that would definitely release the animals after they were rehabilitated," Bates said. "They chose our place and said they were going to build our hospital, and that's what they're doing."

Once complete, the center's Sam Goldman Wildlife Hospital will include a triage area, operating room, radiology lab and intensive care accommodations for the native wildlife rehabilitated at the center.

The current onsite veterinary facility is cramped, Bates said, and not adequate for the numerous birds and mammals in need of care.

"The number of animals coming in is increasing every year, and we specialize in the large animals, and we're getting about 800 a year now - eagles, hawks and owls, bobcats, coyotes, javelina," she said.

The new 4,000-square-foot hospital is expected to open in about a year.

How to help

Tucson Wildlife Center still needs about $1 million to complete a state-of-the-art animal hospital.

To donate online, go to www.tucsonwildlife.com and use the secure PayPal service.

Or, call Sheila Chonis at 977-3447 for information about donating.

For information about wildlife rescue, visit the website or call 290-WILD (9453).

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at kmatas@azstarnet.com or at 573-4191.