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Oct. 20, 2021, 3:03 p.m. EDT

New $650 million plan would give Los Angeles Zoo a themepark-style transformation

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By Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A $650 million plan would give the Los Angeles Zoo a theme park-style transformation over the next 20 years.

The city-owned zoo in the city’s Griffith Park area would get exhibit upgrades and new attractions such as a 60-foot-deep canyon for rock climbing and a hilltop building called the California Center in the style of a Yosemite National Park lodge with a sweeping view of a 25,000-square-foot vineyard, the  Los Angeles Times  reported Wednesday.

Supporters of the zoo’s “20-year Vision Plan” said building the features would increase zoo attendance by 72%, to up to 3 million visitors annually.

But the construction would consume 23 acres of native woodlands, drawing opposition led by the historical preservation group Friends of Griffith Park and the California Native Plant Society.

Zoo officials were thinking about the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games as they crafted the plan, said Denise Verrett, the zoo’s director and chief executive.

“What are we going to do to attract international travelers to the zoo as a place they should not miss?” Verrett said.

The renovation would happen in seven phases starting next year and it would be funded by grants and donations raised by the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, a nonprofit support group, and possibly a bond issue, the Times said.

The next step for the proposal is considered by the Los Angeles City Council’s Arts, Parks, Health, Education, and Neighborhoods Committee.

The zoo relies on $11.6 million from the city’s general fund to meet its approximately $25 million fiscal budget for 2021-22.

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