Tuesday, January 22, 2002

$480 million
to move zoo

A study also shows a majority of Oahu
residents oppose a move to Kalaeloa

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Relocating the Honolulu Zoo to Kalaeloa would cost at least $480 million to build and another $12 million to $15 million more in annual operating costs, according to a study completed recently for the Department of Enterprise Services.

Distance from the population center of the island, start-up costs and environmental concerns are all factors city officials should consider before undertaking a relocation project, the study concludes.

Leeward Councilman John DeSoto called the findings predictable and shortsighted. De-Soto is pushing for moving the zoo westward to the former site of the Barbers Point Naval Air Station, where there is land to expand the zoo. He says the current 42-acre site cannot be expanded.

The study explored three possible plans:

>> The first plan calls for creating a 100-acre version of the existing zoo. The Portico Group, a Seattle-based zoological planning and exhibit design firm, gave a "probable project cost projection" of $479.4 million to build the new facility based on the scenario.

>> A second scenario consists of a facility showcasing Hawaiian and Pacific fauna. The Portico Group projects construction would be $550.6 million.

>> A third scenario incorporates the "wild animal park" theme of the San Diego Zoo. The Portico Group estimates that would cost about $496 million.

The planning firm also estimated that it would cost an additional $23.8 million to demolish the existing zoo and restore it to parkland as part of Kapiolani Park.

Also as part of the relocation study, Becker Communications Inc. produced a report showing a majority of Oahu residents do not support relocation.

A phone survey done by Analytical Planning Consultants, Becker reported, showed 56.4 percent opposed to a move and only 28.4 percent in support.

The same study also showed 59.7 percent less likely to visit the zoo if it were moved to Kalaeloa, and 30.5 percent who indicated they would be more likely to visit.

Becker also did "an overview of the potential impact on the resident and tourist markets."

The findings noted that the visitor market represents more than 30 percent of the zoo's annual attendance and that a majority of them pay the $6 adult entry fee as opposed to the lower $4 kamaaina rate.

"Moving the zoo to the Ewa Plain, where there are virtually no tourist attractions, would necessitate tourists arriving either by rental car or by tour bus," the report said.

The zoo's current ticket would need to rise to at least $20, the report said, because it is "not high enough to provide an acceptable commission to tour operators."

The product would therefore need to change dramatically to justify the increase in entry fees, the report said.

The Honolulu Zoological Society also weighed in with its opposition to a move, suggesting that many of its volunteers would be reluctant to travel to Kalaeloa.

DeSoto, in response to the study results, said those who prepared the report "don't have the guts and foresight to see why it should be put at Kalaeloa."

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