Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is Taking a ‘Cautious Step’ Into the Future

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Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska has had a tough year. Yet the director of the facility says there are better times ahead.

Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium Attendance, Membership

Attendance and membership sales at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium have taken their toll due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the zoo currently set a budget for 2021 of about $36 million. This is about 60 percent less than the original 2020 budget. Unfortunately, it is due to the zoo suffering an estimated $26 million revenue loss in 2020.

Dennis Pate, the director and CEO of the zoo, said they are moving one cautious step at a time.

From March 16 through June 1, the Corona Virus closed the zoo to the public. Then, it reopened with big restrictions. Therefore, that resulted in salary reductions and layoffs affecting about 10 percent of the staff.

However, in recent months there has been an increase in attendance, membership purchases, and federal Corona Virus relief money. As a result, it has also helped that the fall was warm and dry, Pate said.

Three-Day Black Friday Membership Deal was a Boon at the Zoo

3,000 in sales was in brought in because of a three-day Black Friday membership deal. These sales have surpassed Black Friday sales of the past few years. In fact, federal dollars being distributed by Douglas County and the state are helping with operating costs. As well as the COVID-19 safety upgrades like automatic flush valves and touchless sinks.

Better Times Ahead for the Zoo

We are doing better with some hope out there, Pate said. Even though we are not back as far as revenue and visitors, we are doing better with some hope out there.

There are a few new projects in the works. In fact, the zoo is installing new netting and a new boardwalk in the aviary. This is expected to reopen this spring.

Undergoing a $7 million upgrade is the Hubbard Gorilla Valley. In May, construction is expected to finish. The Harper Event Center is a new venue. Around Memorial Day, a stingray exhibit will open.

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