Admission fee increase approved for SF Zoo

August 21, 2008 8:04:44 PM PDT
City officials today approved the San Francisco Zoo's $20.3 million budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year, as well as increased admission fees to take effect next month.

Beginning Sept. 1, San Francisco residents -- children, adults and seniors -- will all pay an additional $3 to enjoy the zoo. Non-residents will pay $4 more. Annual zoo membership fees will remain the same price.

The zoo last increased admission fees in 2005 by $1.

Zoo officials also previously decided to eliminate its monthly free days for non-residents, beginning Sept. 1 as well.

The hikes were approved this afternoon by the city's Recreation and Park Commission, which also voted to change the zoo's definitions of adult and child, and eliminate youth fees. Adult fees will be now charged to those between ages 15 and 64, and children's fees will apply to those between ages 3 and 14.

Zoo Chief Financial Officer Wayne Reading said today the increase was needed to avoid cutting funding for zoo programs and exhibits.

The higher adult rates of $12 for residents and $15 for non-residents remain "very competitive" with other Bay Area attractions such as San Francisco's Exploratorium and the California Academy of Sciences, Reading said. The zoo fees will still be "generally lower" than other similar-sized zoos nationwide, he added.

Reading said 40,000 fewer visitors were expected to visit the zoo next year, due to the fee increases, the free-day change, and a general downturn in the economy.

Zoo attendance in 2007 was the highest since 1984, at nearly 1.1 million, according to zoo spokeswoman Lora LaMarca.

The commission also voted today to allow the zoo to close this Dec. 25 in memory of last year's fatal mauling on Christmas Day by a zoo tiger of 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. of San Jose.

"There's an overwhelming desire not to relive the events of last year's tragedy," said zoo acting director Tanya Peterson. She said the closure was "out of respect for the loss of a young man loved by his family," and for the loss of Tatiana the tiger, who was shot dead by police at the scene of the mauling.

Peterson said she had been repeatedly asked by zoo staff to do something to provide "a sense of healing."


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