- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Much of the Baton Rouge Zoo’s architecture would need to be replaced to carry out proposals to make it an interactive “zoo of the future,” the zoo director said.

The changes would have to take place even if the zoo remains in its current location in Baker, zoo Director Phil Frost told The Advocate (https://bit.ly/1Sb5tiS ).

A recent study concluded that an expansive revamp of the existing zoo would be as expensive as moving the zoo across town and starting from scratch.

Frost said that even if the zoo stays in Baker between 90 to 95 percent of the zoo’s architecture would need to be replaced for the proposed interactive “zoo of the future” that the recreation and parks commission is imagining.

Zoo officials have not said how much upgrades would cost, but early studies suggested building a new zoo could cost $110 million, excluding the cost of buying land. The proposal to move the zoo is predicated on the land being donated.

Frost acknowledged that there is no way to rebuild or move the zoo without additional public money but said it’s premature to say there would need to be a dedicated tax and what that would look like. He said the determination will come once officials have a better sense of how much the improvements will cost.

The money would go toward adding extras to make the zoo appealing to broader demographics than just young children. Frost envisions train rides, ropes courses, carousels, splash pads and more. He wants facilities to host retreats, wedding receptions, dances and even overnight guests.

“We’re currently pretty much a 9 to 5 zoo,” Frost said. “We need to make that a 7 to 10 zoo.”

One way to offset some of the cost would be to build attractions that bring in revenue, Frost said.

Another likely change could come at the prices to attend the zoo. Admission prices at the Baton Rouge Zoo are among the lowest in the state. It currently costs $8.75 for adults and $5.75 for children.

Frost said he wants to institute dynamic pricing at the Baton Rouge Zoo, where prices vary depending on the time of year people visit and the activities they choose.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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