Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Zoo Funding Shift

Complain all you want about funding the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum with the entertainment tax but this kind of makes some sense to me. I can remember when the zoo was a city department and was also under the Parks and Recreation Department, sometime back in the early 80’s. The city continues to own the land and the infrastructure.  The Parks and Recreation Department maintain the zoo grounds. The Zoological Society contracts with the city to manage the Zoo and its animals and the operation of the GPZDM. That takes money, folks.
City Director Cooper is correct to express concerns that there will be enough money to go around but I guess the GPZDM will have to accept lower than budgeted revenues if that were to occur in the future.  There is no guarantee of money either from the general fund or from the entertainment tax. The fact is the action by the City Council makes the GPZDM eligible to receive entertainment tax money, but the change won’t be available for several years anyway. The action just makes them eligible.
When I think of the Washington Pavilion, the Convention Center and the GPZDM , it would be interesting to see which entity works really hard to increase revenues, visitors, activities, entertainment, etc. Put these three operations together for a side by side comparison and see who is the most successful in bringing in money, thereby reducing their support from the entertainment tax year by year. Excellence should be rewarded with money from the entertainment tax. Unfortunately, it is usually the other way around.  The exceptional operation just keeps being told to work harder while the mediocre operation is rewarded with more money because they aren’t successful in increasing their patron and activities numbers.
I am tired of the critics who don’t support the GPZDM.  It is a wonderful facility and something this city should be very proud to promote as an entertainment venue.  News flash – it also brings in sales tax dollars.  Hyvee and Sanford have become partners with the Zoo and their continued support of the Zoo operation is a testament to how the organization is run.
The hiring of Elizabeth Whealy was a brilliant move by the Zoological Board who, despite some pretty contentious times with the city, has taken the reins and turned that facility into a gem for this city. Take a look at the numbers – more people are visiting the Zoo than ever before. It is truly a success story.  Elizabeth has built a staff of employees who are dedicated to the mission of the GPZDM and to providing an experience for families that make them want to come back time and again. A success story that deserves the budgetary support of the city because, after all, the city(citizens) own it.


  1. The Zoo, The Pavillion, The Arena/Convention Center, our Parks....should not have to suffer in order to build an Event Center...Improved Hockey, Tennis, and Swim facilities should also come first!!

  2. While I think the Zoo is good for our community, in these economic times Infrastructure should come first - not monkey toilets.

    And guess what else? The taxpayers did not choose to purchase the Zoo, that was the choice of some overzealous city councilors. So yes, we do own it, but we didn't have a choice in the manner like with the Pav or a future EC.

  3. The city didn't buy the Zoo. The city has always "owned" the Zoo. All the city did was spin it off for someone else to manage it, in this case, the Zoological Society.

  4. Sorry, you are right. But up until that point, the city was not subsidizing it's operations, and this was the decision of councilors NOT citizens. I say put it on the ballot. Put it on with the EC vote. Ask people, "Do you think the city should subsidize the Zoo's operations?" And while we are at it, let's ask about Great Bear too.

    We know what the answer would be.