Zoo growth part of master plan updates weighed by City Council

2012-08-27T06:00:00Z 2012-10-09T19:50:29Z Zoo growth part of master plan updates weighed by City CouncilBy Rachel Wells | rwells@pantagraph.com pantagraph.com

BLOOMINGTON — Walking into Miller Park Zoo, visitors’ first view is a bush – lovely, but not one of the more than 400 animals most people come to see. Instead, visitors must wander a bit to find any one of the zoo’s main attractions.

But the creature-free patch of vegetation visitors see would be turned into the home of about 35 flamingos by 2014, if the city adopts and implements a $16.7 million master plan that also calls for underwater viewing exhibits, a concession stand and more.

“You’re going to be deaf or blind or both not to see this flock of flamingos,” said zoo Superintendent Jay Tetzloff. He called the proposed $250,000 flamingo exhibit “low hanging fruit” – a relatively easy project that could serve as a highly visible sign of progress to encourage community support for more improvements. “People need to see we’re moving forward,” he said.

During a city council work session at 5:55 p.m. Monday, City Manager David Hales said he will ask aldermen if they want to adopt the master plan, and consultants Schultz and Williams are expected to speak about financing options, which could include either or both private and public funding. During a 7 p.m. regular session, aldermen, in an unrelated topic, will hear a presentation on the city’s fiscal year 2012 financial condition.

City staff isn’t offering any funding recommendations, but John Kennedy, director of parks, recreation and cultural arts, said the improvements would help decrease the zoo’s subsidy level. “If it stays the same, you’re going to see even increased reliance on the city’s general fund to support the operations of the zoo,” Kennedy said. “If we make these plans, we can attract additional attendees, we can raise our revenues, charge higher rates or offer higher services.”

A proposed implementation schedule, project costs and impact estimates are posted at www.pantagraph.com.

As currently proposed, the improvements would start in 2014 with the addition of flamingos, an exhibit expected to increase admissions by 5 percent, helping to bring down the current level of taxpayer support from 53.3 percent to an estimated 50.4 percent in fiscal year 2015.

Red panda, anteater and eagle exhibits built through 2017 would continue to gradually grow admissions and reduce taxpayer subsidy. A new sea lion exhibit in 2018 would grow admissions by 15 percent and an otter exhibit in 2019 by 12 percent, helping to bring down the city’s subsidy to about 38 percent in fiscal year 2020.

After factoring in increased expenses and revenues, a 38 percent subsidy in fiscal 2020 would come to about $660,000. The current 53.3 percent subsidy is equal to about $617,000. At the same time, admission prices would increase as the value of the exhibits improved.

Part of the master plan proposal includes tweaking the relationship the zoo has with the Miller Park Zoological Society, a nonprofit organization that provides financial support primarily by raising funds through events like Zoo-Do. The society provided most of the funding for the master plan and annually contributes more than $100,000 toward the zoo’s operation costs.

Consultants recommend the society push more for major donations from individual and corporate sponsors rather than event-based support.

The society’s development director Susie Ohley said MPZS is working on a memorandum of understanding with the city to define the relationship but otherwise declined comment on specific recommendations, noting that the city has not yet approved the master plan. “Our role is to support the zoo in whatever way we can,” she said.


Council talk

What: Bloomington City Council

When: 5:55 p.m. work session, 7 p.m. regular session

Where: City Hall, 109 E. Olive St.

Copyright 2015 pantagraph.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. ladybee
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    ladybee - August 27, 2012 1:25 pm
    Return every creature in the zoo to their natural habitat. Protest anything that looks like a zoo.
  2. pitdogg2
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    pitdogg2 - August 27, 2012 10:37 am
    I can remember when the Zoo was free! I also knew Bill K. and helped him more than once feed the animals. Right now the cost of admission is the one reason my family has not been twice in 10yrs. Go ahead and do your upgrades but remember the more you charge the more people will stay away. When we want to go to the zoo we go to St. Louis and spend the day WHERE IT'S FREE TO GET IN !!!!
  3. Grandpa Sam
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    Grandpa Sam - August 27, 2012 10:16 am
    I believe new water sources, street/bridge repair, and proper funding of city retiree's pension plans should be our city's councils priority. I believe an unmanned fire station is a waste of money, as is the coliseum. The zoo, although well kept and operated, will inevitably cost more money. I hate to see wild animals caged in small pens/cages, and expansion for current animal population is costly. City council meets tonight.
  4. RebelDiablo
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    RebelDiablo - August 27, 2012 9:19 am
    Expand and improve it and they will come? yea, right!! Me think's it's wishful thinking on the Directors and Comrade Hales part and the "consultants are nothing more than snake oil salesman”. Cities all over the country are broke and heading towards bankruptcy. The State of Illinois is a good example of financial mismanagement and we are underwater and drowning. .Normal is gasping for breath and is seriously in the red, but Comrade Mayor Koos wil support spending money that they don’t have to build new bike trails which probably will be a shot in the arm for the bike shop he owns. And finally, Bloomington, the pensions are underfunded, streets need repaired, alleys need to be paved, and Comrade City Manager Hales thinks we have the money to spend on expanding the zoo? Get this Hales, Zoos, are not a necessity! They might be nice to have, but we don't need them! Don't give us that BS the citizens want a bigger Zoo. It's you and your kind that want a bigger Zoo. Take your grandiose planning and take a hike Comrade Hales. We live in desperate times right now, and we expect our elected officials, and you, an appointed official to be frugal right now. We are already a great place to live and stop spending our money frivolously.
  5. pastol
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    pastol - August 27, 2012 8:13 am
    Watching the big cats endlessly pacing back and forth against the bars on the out side of the cage from stress is one of the saddest things I have ever seen. I echo Tony Clifton's call to close the animal prison that this city supports.
  6. righton
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    righton - August 27, 2012 7:46 am
    waste. the pension funds are underfunded because the council failed to contribute recommended amounts, but somehow there's always enough money for projects that lose money. Sell the colisuem, then consider it. We can't afford to lose money at two venues.
  7. tony clifton
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    tony clifton - August 27, 2012 7:16 am
    What a waste of money, close this animal prison.
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