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Kansas City Zoo Visitors Will Get A Better View Of Elephants But Have To Wait For An Aquarium

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3
The Kansas City Zoo says it will spend $10 million to improve the elephant exhibit.

The Kansas City Zoo billed it as a big announcement—a remodeled home for its seven elephants—but it wasn't the huge announcement the zoo was hoping to make.

The zoo will spend $10 million improving the elephant exhibit. “The best way to do it is to just tear it all out and start from scratch,” said Randy Wisthoff, director of the zoo.

The renovations will make the pool easier for the animals to enter, add shade and make the ground a little softer by adding sand. Wisthoff says the current exhibit was good for the elephants but not great.

“The viewing has not been good," Wisthoff says. "That’s always been a concern. We’re trying to have more and more people come out to the zoo, spend more time and really enjoy the animals and the environment.” The new exhibit will add seating, shade and be ADA compliant.

Eighty percent of the money will come from the Zoological District's 1/8th cent sales tax in Jackson and Clay Counties.

While the pachyderm project is big, the bigger project is a $75 million saltwater aquarium the zoo has been trying to fund for a year.  

The hold up is a $7 million contribution from Kansas City. “It kind of all hangs on that right now,” Wisthoff told KCUR.

The city council directed City Manager Troy Schulte to try and find the money. "At this point, no funds have been identified to fulfill this request," city spokesman Chris Hernandez said in an email.

Wisthoff told a city councilcommittee last September that the city money would leverage additional private donations. He reiterated that after the Wednesday announcement. Wisthoff suggests the zoo is close to landing the city funds. “We’re hoping that we can come back and make an announcement in the next four to six weeks.”

Sam Zeffis KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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