LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Last year the Louisville Zoo had its second highest attendance on record as 882,000 people passed through the gates.
To keep people coming, the organization is now in the middle of a large fund raising effort.
"Our goal is $10.4 million," says Zoo Director John Walczak, "we have about $4.9 million raised to date so we are off to a great start."
The money raised will go toward a number of major upgrades, including $3 million to double the size of the elephant exhibit. There will also be new or improved exhibits for the penguins, the snow leopards, and changes at the African Outpost attraction including upgrades to the restaurant.
Walczak says it's all part of their efforts to enhance the visitor experience. "All of our physical growth is tied to a business model that will help us achieve higher attendance and sustain it year after year with subsequent projects to keep everyone interested."
Right now the zoo's annual budget is $16 million.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and some members of the Metro Council have encouraged the zoo to become more financially independent and not rely on taxpayers' dollars as much.
It still seems likely that the city will continue to contribute to the zoo's operating budget.
"Our general fund appropriation is $3 million dollars a year," explains Walczak, "most municipally operated zoos are supported at 30 to 50 percent of their operating budget, this is about 17 percent of our operating budget."
Right now the fund raising campaign is in its 'quiet phase', but it's expected to become more public before the campaign is finished at the end of 2015.
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