This “blog” ties in to my last post “Missed Projections”. I need to correct a statement I made on my “blog” titled “Park Budget Buster”. On item number 6, I indicated that the Zoological Society would need to “raise $10,000,000.00 to pay the PPD back.” The correct statement should have been that the Zoological Society has reported that they have raised $17,000,000.00 toward their goal of $32,000,000.00 and are advancing $10,000,000.00 of these fund to the PPD to put in their proposed $44,700,000.00 budget for 2005, a budget they will present to their board on Wednesday, November 10, at 6:00PM.
An article in the JS on 10/03/04, states “Zoo is still $15,000,000.00 short” of funds needed to reach their goal of $32,000,000.00. On 10/21/04 the JS reported that “construction would not start until 90% of the money is raised”. That leaves an approximately $13,000,000.00 still to be raised before any construction starts.
An article dated 11/29/00 in the JS states “Glen Oak Supporters Seek $25,000,000.00” to expand the current zoo by 13 acres. Somewhere between that date and 10/21/04 the amount sought leaped $7,000,000.00!! An article in the JS on 10/31/04 states that the zoo’s size will increase from 7 acres to 24 . That’s 17 acres, not 13!
An article in the Wall Street Journal dated 5/30/03 titled “A Bear Market for Zoos” says “From Nevada to Philadelphia, zoos and animal parks are taking some unusual steps to cope with budget cuts. Indeed, nearly half of the country’s zoos are facing cutbacks this year, according to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. Attendance is down about 3% nationwide.”
The current Peoria Zoo lost approximately $400,000.00 in 2003. New losses won’t be available for public view until the 2004 year end financial report is released in June of 2005. Since no “business plan” is available from those connected with the fund raising, and projected zoo attendance guess-estimates range from 170,000 to 400,00, I will go on record to suggest the new zoo with its expensive and more expensive to maintain inhabitants and employees, will lose more than the RiverPlex loses each year.
Current admission is $4.75 for adults and $2.50 for children 3 to 12. Admission is free on Tuesdays. The JS article previously mentioned quotes Zoo Administrator Jan Schweitzer as saying “about 120,000 people a year now visit the zoo with some school children coming from as far as 50 to 60 miles away.” Zoo officials say the expanded zoo could attract up to 170,000 people a year. I’m told by school administrators that if the admission fees for these kids are raised, these financially strapped schools may not be able to afford school time visitations.
Just to sum up:
The appeal of zoos nationwide has declined. That should be obvious with the advent of more sophisticated technology; kids can see more interesting things while seated in their own living rooms.
The cost of the new addition has jumped in cost by $7,000,000.00 and construction hasn’t even started.
A perpetual maintenance fund of $2,000,000.00 doesn’t hold water. The maximum return on an investment this size yearly contributed for maintenance would be approximately $130,000. The current zoo loses approx. $400,000.00 a year. With a $32,000,000.00 add on to the existing zoo, costs to maintain will be far in excess of $130,000.00 a year. To make up the losses, guess who will be stuck with higher property taxes?? And golfers, if you think $20.00 a year if all you’re going to get in season passes, think again.
The private funds being donated to this more than likely major money loser are being diverted away from the new softball fields the Park President promised in 2003. Too late, my softball playing friend say that with Eastside, Bloomington, Morton and Pekin ahead of Peoria, new fields would be major money losers.
These private funds will detract from donations for the museum and civic center addition.
These private funds will detract from greater social donations, most of which have a far greater impact of the well-being of our community than “enhancements”.
What about the cities use of your taxpayer dollars to create the traffic infrastructure for expanded entries into the zoo? My councilman says as far as he knows the city will not be involved. Want to bet??
Will $32,000,000.00 get you a nicer zoo? Absolutely!! Look at the new ball park and the RiverPlex. Beautiful, but have they ever even come close to projected attendance and break even points? But relax, we still have the $55,000.000.00 Civic Center expansion, the New Children Playhouse, the New $65,000,000.00 Museum and the new PPD headquarters building. Plus a lot more!
Does anyone care about the condition of some of our cities roadbeds and road ways? I know our Director of Public Works does but his budget is not adequate. I suggest our leadership take their out of town visitors to see the condition of streets below say Lincoln southward all the way to the southernmost city limits. But those residents lack power to get much done and don’t get too much help from their city council representatives.
Peoria lost 4300 more people moving out than moving in or being born in the last three years according to JS Business writer Paul Gordon.