For the first time in its 100-plus year history, the Kansas City Zoo will have a constant revenue stream after voters in Jackson and Clay counties approved a 1/8th-cent sales tax increase, clearing the way for a number of zoo improvements over the next several years.
The sales tax – the most highly-contested issue on Tuesday’s ballot – passed easily in Jackson County by an overwhelming 70 percent to 30 percent against, while the vote was much closer in Clay County, where it passed by a total of 409 votes – 51 percent to 49 percent.
The vote means an additional $14 million for the zoo, which plans on using the money to build a number of new exhibits over the next few years, starting with a new penguin exhibit expected to open in about three years. Future attractions to be funded by the sales tax include a new outdoor orangutan jungle, a new big cat exhibit, a water play area for kids and a giraffe feeding station.
In addition, the zoo will have two mobile vehicles to bring traveling exhibits to Jackson and Clay counties.
“This is the most exciting that’s happened in the eight years I’ve been here,” said Kansas City Zoo director Randy Wisthoff. “I think this is the most exciting thing to happen to the Kansas City Zoo in the last 100 years and for the next 100 years.”
In return for supporting the new sales tax, residents in Jackson and Clay counties will get discount admission rates and access to educational outreach programs.