By Matthew Pizzo
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer
The Potter Park Zoo Board discussed extending park hours, changing the fee structures, passed a resolution toward a public-private partnership and other matters at the zoo’s monthly meeting Oct. 10.
Appointed by the Ingham County Board of Commissioners, the zoo board updates the county board on any improvements or concerns they have with the zoo.
“This board provides boots on the ground input on what they think would be a good next move for the zoo,” said Sherrie Graham, director of Potter Park Zoo.
The board discussed extending park hours during the summer months.
According to Graham, many zoos pick one night to stay open late to attract a new audience and more visitors.
“We looked at staying open one night each month,” Graham said. “Also, doing something special to create additional interest and grow our guest base.”
The board also discussed changing the zoo’s fees for parking and admission.
Graham said the board is looking to combine the park’s admission and parking into one flat rate, which would improve customer service.
“What I would like to do is have them pay when they come in and raise the price of admission to cover what the parking revenue brings in,” Graham said.
Bradley Merritt, chair member of the board, said during the open discussion that it would make sense not to charge people twice with fees when they visit the park.
The board passed reach a decision to combine the zoo’s entities and to move toward a public-private partnership.
Dan Halfmann, financial planner of the board, calculated what percent of the total budget is paid by Ingham County and what percent of the budget is paid by the Potter Park Zoo Zoological Society.
The amount the county needs to reimburse the society, $108,922, will create equity between the organizations.
Graham said the society has put a lot of energy and brains into this public-private partnership and is following the Toledo Zoo’s model.
According to Graham, the zoo will be more efficient if it was managed as a non-profit entity.
“The proposed transition is from public to private,” Graham said. “The board is looking into additional sources of revenue streams for the zoo.”
According to Graham, renting the zoo out for private events and parties has increased revenue up to 125 percent from last year.
“We want to find ways to add value to things we do,” Halfmann said. “I believe we’ve been successful at that.”
Also, the board discussed the addition of a zip line to the zoo.
“Well, it offers one more thing to do,” Graham said. “What you want to do at the zoo is get people to come back as often as possible.”
The next Potter Park Zoo Board meeting will be held Nov. 13 at the Educational Building in the Potter Park Zoo.