Zoo conference fills three downtown hotels

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The zoo is in the spotlight this week as experts from around the world are in town to see changes underway at Kansas City's Zoo.

About 2,000 zoo and aquarium workers are downtown at Bartle Hall exchanging ideas and learning how to make animal exhibits more popular.

This is the first visit to Kansas City and the second biggest crowd ever for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums annual conference.

Three downtown hotels are sold out through Friday, and the conference had to add two more downtown hotels to accommodate all of the delegates making the trip.

Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff says this conference will generate about $3-million in spending. He lobbied hard to get it here after the city's convention business dropped dramatically during the recession.

One of the big reasons why the zoo association decided to come, is because members want to see the renovations and improvements that have been enhancing the reputation of Kansas City's zoo.

"Just the status of the zoo right now around the world, our stock has been rising," Wisthoff said. "I think the location, being in the heartland, the middle of the country, it's easy to get to. I just talked to my counterpart at the Wichita Kansas zoo and he has 25 of his employees here."

The zoo district tax has helped fund capital improvements at Kansas City's zoo, including the new Helzberg penguin plaza, which is scheduled to open in October. Zoo experts are eager to get a sneak peak at that exhibit.

Only when this conference was at Disney World, did it attract a larger crowd.
Visitors tell FOX 4 News they like what they've seen so far in Kansas City.

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