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BREC eyes July unveiling for zoo improvements, details 10-year plan across multiple projects

3 months 2 days 6 hours ago Monday, April 22 2024 Apr 22, 2024 April 22, 2024 3:10 PM April 22, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE — The first phase of the multi-year, $55 million revitalization of the Baton Rouge Zoo and surrounding facilities is aiming for a July grand opening to coincide with National Parks and Recreation Month, BREC Superintendent Corey Wilson said Monday at the Baton Rouge Press Club.

The zoo's improvement plan, which helped the park regain its reaccreditation after losing the status in 2018, is one of multiple programs that will be funded by BREC's newest 10-year master plan for its facilities, Wilson said.

"Hopefully there's a portion of the next 10 years of our funding which may towards Phase Two, but we are also working with our zoo foundation to raise private dollars that could potentially help support future improvements as well," he said.

The 10-year plan was informed by a national study of BREC's park system that detailed the economic impacts of its facilities. Among the study's findings was BREC facilities contributing more than $318 million to local economic development annually, including $26 million from tourism dollars, Wilson said.

The study also found that BREC parks saw homeowners' property values increasing by $20.8 million and increasing property tax revenue by $1.7 million. 

Funding for projects the master plan details like the continued development of the City Park Lake restoration project will be provided by two property tax renewals that will be voted on in November. The taxes are also used to fund BREC operations.

"It's vitally important that the community is aware that BREC is on the ballot," Wilson said.

BREC is also in the early stages of a planned redevelopment of Memorial Stadium as a multi-use, 110,000 square-foot fitness facility that could potentially host professional soccer and baseball teams. Wilson said that a portion of the 10-year funding plan could go towards the Memorial Stadium project.

The timeline of that project has not been established, with Wilson saying a lot of the planning is contingent on the developer known for its stadium developments, Austin's Oak View Group. They previously developed the University of Texas at Austin's Moody Center.

"We would like to contribute a portion of your dollars to go towards a larger development out at Memorial," Wilson said. "We don't have a long line of people willing to give us millions of dollars to improve on Memorial, so we are allowing them to work on their own timeline. But we do anticipate that, hopefully later on this year, there is a formal agreement that talks about the cost of the entire improvements, who is contributing what, who is maintaining what and who is operating what."

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