Topeka, Kan. (KSNT) – The Topeka Zoo has high hopes for a major makeover. A multi-million dollar revision to its master plan hinges on voters extending a local sales tax.
On Monday, Shawnee County Commissioners voters to shift money for street construction projects to the Topeka Zoo from money generated by that half cent sales tax extension. This, after the public contacted commissioners asking them to add in the zoo for improvements.
“The Topeka Zoo is one of the main attractions, especially for parents to come to Topeka and visit,” said Katrina O’Hara.
Katrina O’Hara has been coming to the Topeka Zoo for seven years. “The exhibits have especially lately have gotten to be different, they’ve expanded, they’ve gone ahead and added different things,” said O’Hara.
In 2012, zoo directors began debating whether they should continue its costly elephant exhibit. The answer was yes, but they would need to invest nearly ten million dollars in upgrades to the facilities.
Monday, Shawnee County Commissioners voted to give them the ten million in sales tax revenue.
“It means a lot to us that they recommended that we be put on the ballot, we’ve got a lot of the friends of the zoo members. we’ve got about 5,000 friends of the zoo membership households,” said Kate Larison, the executive director for Friends of the Topeka Zoo.
The expansion would not be the only upgrade to the zoo. The entire entrance will change, the otter exhibit will be out in front of the zoo. Giraffes will move to a bigger space with other animals, and there will be a world plaza to greet all the 180 thousand annual visitors.
“I want more people coming here. The more people that come, the more things that are going to start popping up,” said O’Hara.
The zoo will also launch their own fundraising campaign to raise another ten million to essentially match the county’s money. But all this, they say, depends on voters passing the half cent sales tax extension.
The proposal still needs the support of the Topeka City Council, and there is no decision on when the questions will appear on the ballot.