Independence, MO – There are a handful of nonprofit organizations in every community that epitomize excellence.
Here, the Kansas City Zoo tops the list.
Few organizations ever experience the transformation our zoo has since its current leader, Randy Wisthoff, took the helm. Things at the zoo have gone in one direction since he became its executive director/CEO in 2003 after 26 years at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.
If you haven’t visited the Kansas City Zoo lately, you should. You’ll be amazed at all that’s new and improved.
The front entry plaza and Deramus Educational Pavilion greet visitors, and the tropics building, renovated lion exhibit, Africa decks and Snakes Alive are must-sees. As you continue through the zoo, you pass the Discovery Barn, Promenade Short-Cut to Africa and renovated Carousel Café. The Peek-A-Boo Tree and Endangered Species Carousel are also there, and the polar bear exhibit and African Sky Safari complete the list of recent improvements.
The additions are the result of a classic public-private partnership. Kansas City voters in 2004 approved a $30 million bond to make essential repairs and improvements at the zoo. Since then, private contributions have added $15 million to the public dollars for a total impact of $45 million.
Yet more is needed. And next month, we’ll have the opportunity to deliver the additional support the zoo needs.
Voters in Jackson and Clay counties will have the opportunity on Nov. 8 to approve a one-eighth-cent sales tax that will raise about $14.2 million annually for the zoo. The tax would cost county residents one cent of every $8 in taxable purchases. About a third of all sales taxes revenue is paid by people who live outside the geographic areas in which they’re assessed.
If voters approve the tax, the new revenue will go into the Kansas City Zoological District Trust Fund, administered by a commission that includes elected officials in both counties, a Friends of the Zoo county resident, the executive director/CEO of the Kansas City Zoo and a member of the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Commission.
Revenue from the sales tax increase would allow the zoo to implement its 10-year, $100 million master plan, which – in addition to the world-class penguin exhibit – calls for a series of new animal habitats including a predator canyon/tiger exhibit, a gorilla/apes exhibit, an elephant oasis, a giraffe tree tops and a renovated sea lion cove. A new kids’ wet play zone also is on the list.
For approving the sales tax, residents of Jackson and Clay counties would receive half-priced zoo admission any time and free admission four days a year. The zoo would fully sponsor school field trips for designated grade levels and reduced admission for all school groups, and dedicated Zoomobiles would bring educational programs to schools, community centers and libraries in both counties.
Zoo leaders estimate the attractions will gradually increase annual zoo attendance, which should reach 1.12 million when the 10-year plan is completed. Increased attendance would grow gate revenue to cover the costs of improved operations and maintenance. Beyond these, the Kansas City Zoological District would create 100 new permanent jobs and 1,200 new construction jobs.
Please support the One Zoo for All campaign and vote yes on Nov. 8. The results are clear and will benefit us all.