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Kansas City Zoo Hopes To Limit Crowds With Revamped Free Admission Program

Shawn Kincaide

The Kansas City Zoo is rolling out a new system for free visits after more than 20,000 people overwhelmed the zoo during a free admission day in March.

Some guests became unruly – and shots were fired in a parking lot as people left the zoo.

"We want everybody to come to the zoo, but what wasn't working was everybody coming on that one day we designated free day," says Kansas City Zoo executive director Randy Wisthoff.

Wisthoff says the zoo has had to rethink how it handles the four free visits a year promised to residents of the two counties supporting the zoo through a property tax increase. They've hit on a program they're calling "Postcard to Adventure" – Jackson and Clay County residents should check their mailboxes this week for a ticket good for three free visits on a designated weekday in July, September and November.

There are roughly 250,000 households in the two counties, and they've been equally divided between four days, Monday through Thursday. The assignments are random, not tied to city or zip code, so it's likely your neighbors will all get different days. But Wisthoff says residents can ask the zoo for a different day if theirs won't work.

He says the new program will help limit crowds to less than 12,000 a day, what the zoo considers ideal to see the animals.

Click here to visit the zoo's website for more information on how the program works.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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