Political Blog

Find posts by keyword
Find posts by date


Zoo train derailment price tag

by joe.arnold


Posted on October 15, 2009 at 1:17 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 22 at 1:18 PM

As WHAS11 reported Wednesday, because the Louisville Zoo suspended train rides after a train derailment on June 1, the zoo has not had the benefit of train ride revenue, roughly $400,000 per year.

Still no word on the estimated cost from lawsuits, settlements or increased insurance premiums emanating from derailment injuries.

The "World's Largest Halloween Party" is their biggest annual fundraiser in its 30th year. Last year it generated $300K.

Here is the letter sent to Louisville Zoo members by Director John Walczak:

Dear Zoo Members:

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for choosing to be a Louisville Zoo Member. During these days of economic challenges, your ongoing support is so very important to all that we do here at your Zoo.

Many of your have shared your concerns with me and my staff about the changes in our World's Largest Halloween Party presented by Meijer. I felt this was an appropriate time to communicate with you about that and some other issues we are facing.

Financially, it's been a very difficult year for many of us. Across the country, zoos are seeing record drop offs in fundraising and other earnings that support basic operations. At the Louisville Zoo, we have experienced some significant budget cuts this fall and will for the first time in our history begin laying off some of our dedicated employees.

Zoo staff have begun the process of adapting to the current circumstances by refocusing resources on what is critical to our mission - guaranteeing that animals are well cared for and that education programs, guest amenities and member services are maintained at the highest levels possible. As the Zoo's most dedicated and enthusiastic supporters, we are asking you to adapt with us during this challenging time.

You may not have realized that the "World's Largest Halloween Party!" is the Zoo's largest fundraiser - raising funds for daily operations rather than capital projects like new exhibits. It is also a favorite fall activity for Zoo members, attracting as many as 90,000 visitors, approximately 75% of which are Zoo members. With rising event costs, the current unpredictability of sponsor income to offset expenses, and safety and capacity issues on the very crowded popular nights, we needed to revaluate the event for 2009. With the suggestions of over 1,000 members who participated in a fall 2008 survey and in light of new financial pressures, we have made some modifications for 2009, which we want to be sure you are aware of and understand.

Of the fourteen Halloween event nights this year, seven of them (October 9-11 and 15-18) will continue to be free to Zoo members and the persons covered under the membership. We hope this change not only lessens the congestion during the final weeks, thus improving the experience of all our guests, but also helps provide for a more successful fundraising effort.

If you are not able to take advantage of the free member nights and still wish to enjoy this event, I encourage you to consider supporting this important fundraiser along with non-member visitors by coming to the remaining nights and bringing your friends and family. We've kept ticket prices at the 2008 level with $6.50 discount tickets available through local Meijer stores.

Many of you have asked about 2010. At this point, we plan to continue offering - free or discounted - admission to the Halloween Party. However, we will need to evaluate the 2009 event and the upcoming challenges before making final decisions about next year.

From renewing your membership to shopping in the gift shops and food concessions to riding the carousel or the new 4-D Ride, plus joining us for free or paid fundraising events, every zoo activity you participate in provides critical support to the Zoo. These and other activities provide the important revenue streams that sustain the Zoo's mission. As members, you appreciate better than anyone the importance of what we do - from animal care and conservation to education programs and fun community events. We truly value all of your support and hope the connections you can make with family, nature and wildlife are worthwhile.

If you have any questions about the Halloween event, you can find updates and Frequently Asked Questions on the Halloween page of our website, plus our Membership Department also stands ready to assist you. Thank you again for your support and flexibility as we all adapt to current challenges.


John Walczak
Louisville Zoo Director