Brookfield Zoo has been a popular tourist attraction since it opened in the 1930’s, but the zoo now says that without state funding help, they may have to take drastic steps to cut costs as repair bills pile up.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, the zoo said that it has over $260 million worth of repair projects that need to be done, and it is asking the state of Illinois for help as it considers a new capital funding bill.
"We know that's a big number, but it's important to consider that the more we receive from the state, the more we are able to focus on sustaining and expanding conservation, science, nature, leadership and accessibility programs that directly benefit our communities," said Stuart Strahl, president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, in a statement.
The zoo says that if it doesn’t get help from the state, ticket prices at the zoo could go up, and the zoo’s policy of being open every day of the year could change.
The list of potential repairs is long. Leaky roofs, gas leaks, failing electrical systems, and buckled pavement were all listed in the zoo’s funding request, and that’s on top of other repairs.
“The Brookfield Zoo is not asking for a handout,” Chicago Zoological Society Rich Gamble said during a hearing in Springfield.
The zoo is looking to be included in a capital infrastructure bill that’s expected to be passed during the current legislative session in Springfield.
“I hope lawmakers and Governor JB Pritzker realize how important it is to invest in this critical institution,” zoo volunteer Gigi Sevilla said.
Sevilla has volunteered at the zoo since high school, but the types of education programs that allow her to do so could be on the chopping block if the institution doesn’t get the funding it’s requesting from the state.
“Without assistance, we may have to take some drastic steps, which include program cuts, raising the cost of admission, reducing park hours, or closing buildings,” Strahl said. "Without help, we'll be forced to divert funds away from these important missions in order to address basic safety concerns for guests and animals alike."