Evansville CVB to vote on funding new Mesker Zoo exhibits

Evansville CVB to vote on funding new Mesker Zoo exhibits

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - The Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau board is set to vote this week on partially funding some additions at Mesker Park Zoo.

The zoo went to the CVB in late November asking them to help fund a Penguin Exhibit and Budgie Aviary and Carousel. Now the CVB's Grants Committee has made their recommendation.

The Grants Committee looked closely at both exhibits, which the zoo says are "blueprint-ready."

The Budgie Aviary and Carousel are Phase 1 of the zoo's improvement plans. Budgies are a bird native to Australia that visitors will be able to feed from their enclosure. The custom-made carousel, featuring endangered species for visitors to ride, will be the first carousel on zoo property. One used to be located across the street at the Mesker Mall.

That project will cost between 3 and 3.5 million dollars.

Phase 2 is the penguin exhibit, which zoo officials estimate will cost 5 million dollars.

Marketing Director Abigail Adler says in the zoo industry, it's ideal to open a new exhibit every five years to keep attendance up.  These new exhibits would be the first since Amazonia was opened in 2009.

The zoo is Evansville's second-largest tourist attraction, bringing in 200,000 visitors every year. There was a big spike in attendance after Amazonia's opening and says it will be difficult to increase, or even maintain, current attendance numbers without adding new options for visitors.

The CVB Grants Committee agrees and has decided to recommend approving the zoo's request for $300,000 for Phase 1, but deferring consideration of funding Phase 2 until 2015.

If the CVB board votes in favor of the recommendation, Adler says that will help the project attract other public money and private donations.

She says that same kind of support will be needed to get the $5 million penguin exhibit rolling.

The CVB's board will vote on the committee's recommendation this Wednesday.

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