- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indianapolis Zoo could gain room to expand by using parking lots at an outdoor amphitheater that’s planned nearby at the site of a former General Motors stamping plant, leaders say.

The zoo has an agreement with REI Investments that would open up the amphitheater’s parking for zoo visitors on busy days. On the western edge of downtown Indianapolis, the zoo is landlocked between White River and the major thoroughfare of Washington Street, with parking taking up 13 of its 64 acres.

It relies on private money and receives no taxpayer support, and is considering several options but has no specific expansion plans, zoo spokeswoman Judy Palermo told the Indianapolis Business Journal (https://bit.ly/1Krj1lW ).

“That expansion can get more folks here and advance our mission of animal conservation and serving the west side,” Palermo said. “Everything’s on the table.”

REI Investments President Mike Wells said it has agreed to buy about half of the 102-acre former stamping plant site that is just south of the zoo. A confidentiality agreement prohibited him from releasing the purchase price, he said.

The zoo will provide some financial assistance toward initial planning of the project, which would be a $30 million, 10,000-seat amphitheater, he said.

The future of the GM site has been in question since the factory closed in 2011. A trust created to clean up and market properties owned by GM before its 2009 bankruptcy filing has been demolishing factory buildings and trying to sell the land. A city proposal to build a $390 million criminal justice center there was voted down by the City-County Council in June.

REI Investments is working with White River State Park officials on the planned amphitheater, which would replace the nearby park’s smaller temporary concert venue. If park officials are able to obtain legislative approval next year for state funding, the new amphitheater could open in 2017, Wells said.

“There are a lot of hurdles that have to be cleared,” he said. “The biggest one is White River getting an allocation to pull this off.”

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Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, https://www.ibj.com

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