Thursday, August 26, 2004


Some observations about the Glen Oak Zoo expansion;

An Editorial in the Journal Star this month says “To be honest, an expanded Glen Oak Zoo would not have topped our list of priorities for Peoria. At some $32 million, the five phase expansion is one of the more sizeable projects we’ve seen in Peoria for a while.”

“Bielfeldt Foundation donates $5,000,000.00 to the $25,000,000.00 Glen Oak Zoo expansion.” (JS 9/6/02).. “The overall campaign is $32.1 million.” (Quote Polly Barton, 9/04, in the Peoria Woman.) A $7,000,000.00 jump in two years!!

“The Zoo is expected to draw visitors from a 60 miles radius, bringing in up to 400,000 visitors annually, an increase from 110,000 current averages.” (Quotes from Jan Schweitzer, Times Newspaper, 11/7/01)

“The expanded Zoo will attract upwards of 170,000 people each year an increase of 70,000 over current attendance.” (Quote from Polly Barton, 9/04, in the Peoria Woman.” (Polly is Co-Chair of the Zoological Capital Campaign.)

“Attendance is expected to immediately double and ultimately triple, some 100,000 people annually pass thru the gates now.” (JS Editorial, 8/04.)

“Without looking at the agreement, PPD Board members approved a $2.7 million dollar contract with a New Orleans firm to design an expanded Glen Oak Zoo.”

“Admission is $4.75 for adults and $2.50 for children 3-12 and younger visit free.” (JS 7/04)

“The Zoo has been heavily subsidized by the PPD and is expected to have a $400,000.00 deficit this year. About 157,000 people visited the Zoo last year. (JS 4/24/03)

“We are currently experiencing a major traffic congestion problem and in fact had a serious traffic accident on March 28. The use of Glen Oak Park has increased dramatically.” (Written statement issued by Bonnie Noble on 3/30/98.)

“A Bear Market for Zoos” is a headline in the Wall Street Journal on 5/30/03. The article further states that according to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, attendance is down 3% nationwide.

According to the 2003 year end financial statement, the Glen Oak Zoo had revenues of $370,882.00 and only $360,190.00 in 2002.

Can you make any sense of what is going on here, except that we are going to have another beautiful facility that we really can’t afford? Can you understand the double speak in the numbers & projections? I can’t. I tried to tell you what a financial burden the River Plex would become and it is to the tune of $6,000.00 to $7,000.00 a day in losses. (PPD Financial Statement dated 12/31/03.)

A lot more facts about what is going on in this community will continue to appear on this site.

Talk to you soon!


Karrie E. Alms said...

Hum --- sounds like more of the PPD theme song --- "Build it and they will come". Hasn't happened with the RiverPlex and is a definite wild card with the zoo expansion. Since Tuesdays are no longer free, it will be interesting to see what the attendance numbers will be for 2004.

Zoo admission prices are not economical for large families, one or two outings would put you at the level to join as a family. Perhaps that is their marketing strategy.

Anonymous said...

"If you build it they will come". This may be true sometimes. I was took a trip to Chicago a month ago and stopped at the Brookfield Zoo. First time in years. It was a Thur. afternoon and it was packed. I think attractions of this type will draw people to the area if done right. I agree with Merle, the Riverplex was a bad idea. It doesn't attract people from outside and people inside can't afford it, so we must give it away to them and guess who pays. A Zoo however will attract money from outside if done right.

Bill Dennis said...

Do we really think that people looking to make a "day trip" will pick the Glen Oak Zoo, when they can just as easily travel a few hours to the north to see the zoo in Chicago, or a few hours to the south to see the excellent zoo in St. Louis? It makes no sense to me.

The new-and-improved zoo will draw more visitors from the counties immediately surrounding Peoria, but few from other parts of the state, and certainly none from out of state. Most of the visitors will be school children on field trips, and those will generate little to no revenue.

And no one has answered the question about what will happen to the Sunday Morning League once one of their ballparks has been sacrificed to this new project.

Merle Widmer said...

Anonymous, Thanks very much for your comment. Note that figures that were projected for attendance do not add up.If JS says 157,000 last year and Polly Barton, who is co-chair of the fund raising drive, says 100,000, could I get a loan at the bank on these conflicting figures?

Anonymous said...

Great Point. Let me know what bank will loan with these numbers and I will get in line for a loan for my business!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The projected attendance numbers sound like more of the typical Peoria civic boosterism type of wishing and "thinking" so often seen when the power brokers hatch yet another project to be shuffled onto the public dole.

Peoria has many wonderful attributes, and despite its problems it's not a bad place to live. However, it seems like the power brokers think Peoria is far more prominent and bigger in the grand scheme of things than it is. I honestly think that some of these people think Peoria is in the same league as cities 3-5 times it's size. Maybe 50 or 60 years ago Peoria was more prominent and better-known on the national stage, but it certainly isn't now. Realistic thinking and planning are so often replaced by overenthusiastic civic boosterism in Peoria.

What it boils down to is that the average Peorian ends up paying for these schemes one way or the other.

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