Can the Brandywine Zoo afford expansion?

By Michelle Provencher 4:06pm, May 24, 2014 - Updated 8:15pm, May 24, 2014
New features at the Brandywine Zoo will cost millions, calling to mind the Delaware Art Museum's 2005 expansion, which launched the museum into debt.

Delaware Zoological Society Executive Director Bill Montgomery tells WDEL that unlike the art museum, they're partnering with the state on this project.

"We'll be taking a really conservative approach. There won't be any borrowing involved in this. Frankly, I don't think we break ground until all the commitments are secured. So, we may still be a year or two years away from a groundbreaking," Montgomery said.

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Debt following the art museum's expansion led to the sale of multiple works of art, in order to pay back bonds; however, Montgomery expects the forthcoming rain forest center will bring thousands of new visitors to the zoo.

"This building will be a year-round attraction for the whole city. We bring in 80,000 or so visitors a year right now. And we think we can easily go over six figures and beyond once we got a year-round attraction here in the zoo," Montgomery said.

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The projected cost of the rain forest center and other upgrades will total between $9 and $10 million.

This does not include rebuilding the monkey house damaged last year, which Montgomery says is being paid for using existing funds from the state.

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