- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The St. Louis Zoo has created a plan for a 25-year, $500 million expansion and redevelopment that would remodel the property’s southern half to include giraffes, flamingos and a 2,000-foot-long passenger lift.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1XLgf0j ) reports that the draft reveals plans to renovate large sections of its campus, build a multispecies grassland over its southern parking lot, and expand into the 14 acres it purchased at the former Forest Park Hospital site in 2012.

Zoo leaders are also looking to buy 300 to 400 acres in St. Louis County to use as a breeding site for cheetahs, birds, amphibians and hoof stock.

Officials say the zoo will raise private money to pay for the expansion and exhibits. But they also hope their newly proposed five-county sales tax could cover operations at the conservation breeding site and pay for maintenance.

If passed by the city - plus Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties - the tax could raise $30 million a year, increasing the zoo’s annual $60 million budget by 50 percent.

Zoo president Jeffrey Bonner said the tax is critical, as the zoo has $50 million in deferred facility repairs. He said the zoo should start spending $10 million a year on fixes.

“If we were to do that, we’d start running a deficit right now,” Bonner said previously, bemoaning the zoo’s century-old infrastructure. “In five years, expense and revenue lines are going to cross. At a certain point, you stop repairing and start rebuilding.”

The Missouri Legislature is now considering the sales tax measure, and it could go before voters next spring.

The extra sales tax could be a hard sell to local residents. The zoo already receives $20 million a year from St. Louis and St. Louis County property taxpayers, plus roughly $20 million in donations and about $20 million from tickets and concessions. The zoo association also has about $50 million in the bank and a $50 million endowment.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com


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