BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - BREC Superintendent Corey Wilson unveiled new renderings of a renovated Baton Rouge Zoo Monday, Aug. 12. The full plan will be available to the public Saturday, Aug. 17.
BREC has partnered with a design firm to re-imagine the aging facility, which lost its prized National Association of Zoo and Aquarium accreditation in March of 2018. The organization’s primary concern was dangerous infrastructure that could lead to animal escapes.
“This is an asset the public has trusted us to take care of, so it’s important that we take care of it," Wilson said. “I think everyone in the room agrees that the zoo needs improvements.”
Wilson presented the sneak peek to the Baton Rouge Press Club, where he noted revenue and attendance has increased from 2017 to 2018.
“Often, it’s a challenge to get people to come to the zoo when we haven’t made significant improvements in such a long time,” Wilson said. “The fact that attendance and revenue is up speaks to the customer experience the staff is providing there.”
The master plan will include a redesigned entrance at the back of the existing park, with a sort of boardwalk leading to the gates. The zoo will also include a new adventure playground. More amenities will be announced with the full reveal.
BREC will use around $30 million in savings to start the first phase of construction in the late summer or early fall of 2020. It will cost around $11 million just to regain accreditation.
“We’re hoping stage one is successful enough that it will allow and attract philanthropists to be a part of what we’re doing,” he said, noting that BREC is actively looking for partnerships to help fund subsequent phases of construction.
The unveiling comes on the same day the legislative auditor released a report on BREC’s management of the zoo that the legislature requested in 2018. The auditor criticized BREC for using an informal planning process to prioritize repairs at the zoo, among other things.
“While that has been a good method, we understand that there’s a better way to do it,” Wilson said. “We will have a criteria that will determine when we spend those dollars, how we spend those dollars, and what we spend those dollars on.”
Wilson says BREC had already identified most of the auditor’s recommendations as potential areas for improvement.