EL PASO, Texas - If voters approve the nearly $500 million bond in November, the El Paso Zoo will get $50 million to acquire more animals, build a wildlife theatre and build a Chihuahuan Desert Adventure area, among other projects.
"Zoos play a very intricate role in society actually, there's a need for people to be associated with animals. We've got this history with animals that we can't separate," said Steve Marshall, the Zoo's Director.
The $50 million allocation would be divided among several projects.
About $25 million would go toward the construction of a Chihuahuan Desert exhibit, which would mimic a walk an adventurous walk through an arroyo, with more endangered Mexican gray wolves, jaguars and mountain lions.
There would also be an abandoned ranch house with badgers and jackrabbits and other animals native to the area. View a slideshow of animals at the Zoo by clicking here.
"One of the things that we get asked is 'why invest in showing people what's just outside their backdoor?' But people don't see what's outside their backdoor. They drive home from work. They use their automatic garage door opener. They go in their garage, they go in their house and so what we're going to do is we're going to make this vast bio diverse, very valuable ecosystem accessible," Marshall said Thursday.
Spider monkeys and South American penguins would also be placed at the zoo.
Two million dollars would pay for the construction of a special events tent and a wildlife theatre, where zoo keepers could showcase the animals and hold educational shows for zoo visitors. Four million dollars would pay for the completion of the Africa exhibit to include a bird holding and more animals.
Six million dollars would pay for the acquisition of more animals to the Asia exhibit, such as red pandas, Komodo dragons and small clawed otters.
About $12 million would pay for support facilities, paving, roofs and animal holdings.
Last year, more than 350,000 people visited the El Paso Zoo, a record attendance level. The Zoo also brings in private investment.
The Hunt Family Foundation paid for a $250,000 splash site for children.
"Money encourages more money. If we weren't as successful, I don't think people would be willing to invest in us. We're wildly successful now and people need to back a winner and we can be better and better," said Marshall.
"There's not too many nice things in El Paso and I think the zoo is really something that people from here really hold on to and are rather proud of. I've lived here my whole life, and I've seen the zoo grow, from something rather small to what you see now and if something passes like that that would make it bigger and nicer, I think that would be awesome," said Luann Vorndran, who visited the Zoo Thursday.
If voters pass the bond, a homeowner with a home valued at about $100,000 will pay about $40.00 in additional city property taxes.
The last time El Paso voters passed a bond issue was 12 years ago. Those bonds raised $140 million, $34 million of which went to the zoo.
It paid for the Africa exhibit, which includes lions, zebras, giraffes and other animals; a reptile building and behind the scenes facilities.
Less than 10 million of that money has been paid back. Those bonds have a 25 year term with various rates.