Zoo Sales Tax Dollars Hard at Work Building Bigger Spaces and Creating Smiling Faces

Visible signs of renovation and expansion are apparent at Reid Park Zoo, thanks to funding approved by Tucson voters last year.

Since February of this year, $7 million has been collected in sales tax dollars. About 60% is going toward the Zoo’s new grand master plan and 40% for modernization and operations. Enhancements have been prioritized to upgrade safety, guest experience, and animal care. These projects will be in progress over the next few years and 15% of each capital campaign project will be paid for through funds raised by the Zoological Society

Already underway or completed are new walkways, shade structures, roofs, guard rails, and automatic door openers. Key staff have been added, including a full-time veterinarian, animal care personnel, and grounds and maintenance staff to complete repairs and provide an even better guest experience. The additional animal care personnel mean the Zoo can provide more training and enrichment for the animals. That, in turn, will allow the veterinarian more access for preventative care and other health-related procedures because the animal voluntarily remains still for procedures such as radiographs, blood draws, or injections.

The additional grounds and maintenance staff provide important maintenance and daily upkeep so guest, animal and behind-the-scenes areas remain clean and beautiful for all to enjoy. The crews also are a quick response to any immediate needs such as water leaks or restroom issues.

The funds contributed through the sales tax have also allowed the Zoo to expand community access programs and build on grants throughout the year to provide unique experiences for students, teachers and other groups. So far this year the Zoo has had 16,258 participants visit the Zoo through its free self-guided tour program for K-12 schools.

Completed improvements include:

  • New mesh for tiger habitat installed to ensure safety for guests and animals
  • Sidewalk and cement repairs for safer, smoother movements around the grounds, especially for guests using strollers, walkers and wheelchairs.
  • Otter habitat renovations for better guest viewing, including an eye-level perch and a spyglass for children to observe these playful animals
  • Roofing repair and replacement throughout Zoo to ensure structural integrity during inclement weather

Work in progress:

  • Meerkat expansion so all the members of the “mob” will be visible to guests through two new viewing windows – estimated project completion early November
  • Automatic door openers installed at the café, bathrooms, gift shop, and exits to make accessibility even easier for all guests – estimated completion November
  • New guardrails throughout Zoo installed and painted to keep visitors and animals safe – estimated completion beginning December
  • New mesh for lion and Andean bear habitats to be installed to ensure safety for guests and animals – lion habitat anticipated to be completed in December and Andean bear in progress.
  • Replacement of windows at lion, tiger, anteaters, grizzly, and Andean bears as well as repair other areas to provide guests with a clear view of these amazing animals – in progress, completion 2019.

To ensure the residents at Reid Park Zoo remain comfortable during construction, some animals may be temporarily unavailable for viewing while the new improvements are in progress.

Exciting new daily activities have also been added for Zoo guests. Keeper chats at 11 am and animal presentations at 9:45 am in the front plaza and 2:00 pm in the Conservation Learning Center are now included with the general Zoo admission.

And not only will your Zoo be an amazing daytime adventure, but guests will see even more of what they love – transformation into a nighttime wonderland, including our Brazilian-themed conservation dinner in November to four weeks of Zoo Lights in December to the new Asian Lantern Festival in February and March featuring a 40-foot-long, 8-foot-high dragon in the Zoo’s event gardens and dozens of exciting light sculptures of animals from the Zoo and around the world.

A new Construction Updates page has been added to the Zoo’s website to keep everyone informed about the progress.