Consulting Firms Present New Ideas for Lake Superior Zoo

April 27, 2015 11:19 PM

Two consulting firms presented concrete ideas for the financially struggling Lake Superior Zoo for the first time Monday. 

ConsultEcon and HKGI were both hired by City Administrators to come up with options that would revitalize the Lake Superior Zoo and Fairmount Park grounds. Currently, the city subsidizes nearly $670,000 of the zoo's annual budget. 

"The city's goal is to get more bang for their buck. This isn't acceptable any longer," Fanning said about the city subsidy.  

The two consulting firms had separate goals: ConsultEcon set out to help the zoo keep its current feel, while HKGI looked into moving away from animal exhibits and focusing more on the surrounding environment. 

ConsultEcon's report will be published on the City's website Tuesday, but it includes two scenarios: one that would cost about $16 million and the other $12 million. The $16 million dollar plan includes a brown bear exhibit, indoor playground and a repurposed Polar Shores among other things. The $12 million dollar plan is similar, but a scaled back version. 

A nine-person team made up of zoological society members, city leaders and community members weighed in on those options this winter. City administrators said that group couldn't reach an agreement, so that's when they reached out to HKGI, hoping for less expensive options that included moving away from large animal exhibits. 

HKGI brought three of their own options to the table;

1. An Adventure Zone including: an indoor climbing and education center in the zoo's Main Building, a canopy ropes course and a more upscale petting zoo. 

2. A Nature Park including: the Main Building as a learning center, an outdoor garden house and a native focus on plants

3. A Central Park including: a restaurant/brew pub, an Amphitheatre at Polar Shores and a farm-to-table experience. HKGI representatives said this option includes little to no animals.

HKGI representatives added that these three options range in cost from $8 to $10 million dollars. 

Zoological Society leaders said Monday was the first time they heard of HKGI's plans. 

"This is a new story for us so the Society and its members and I think and the community will have to weigh in on what they think about that and then we'll use that as a guide to where we'll go in the future," John Scott, president of the Zoological Society, said. 

City Councilors expressed concerns at the end of Monday's presentation that it was too much information to take in at once. They asked City Administrators for another meeting designated for them to ask questions. 

City Administrators hope to have a plan picked out by the end of summer 2015. 


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