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Detroit Zoo boosts economy by $167M in 2018, study finds

The Detroit News
In 2016, Detroit Zoo visitation peaked at 1.7 million after the opening of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

Royal Oak — The Detroit Zoo, the largest paid family attraction in the state, contributed a total of $167.6 million to Metro Detroit last year, according to a study. 

The study, conducted by consulting firm Conventions Sports and Leisure International, found that over a five-year period, 2014-18, the zoo’s average economic impact was more than $175 million per year. 

Nearly 7.5 million people have visited the Detroit Zoo in the past five years with an average of 1.5 million annual visitors, according to the study. In 2016, zoo visitation peaked at 1.7 million after the opening of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

Total output -- the re-spending of dollars in the economy -- ranged from $154 million in 2014 to more than $196.5 million in 2015. 

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Of the total output, visitors spent 44% on admissions into the park. The zoo’s third-party food, beverage and gift shops accounted for 8%. Adult tickets for the Detroit Zoo cost $18 at the gate; children and seniors tickets are $15. Parking costs an additional $8.

Over the past five years, 46%  of the total output generated by visitor spending came from people who live outside Michigan, 31% was generated by Michigan residents living outside Metro Detroit and 23 percent by local zoo-lovers, according to the study.

“The results of this study underscore the significant economic contribution the Detroit Zoo returns to the community and the state,” said Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO for the Detroit Zoological Society, in a release.

In 2018, the zoo generated 1,916 full- and part-time jobs for Metro Detroit residents and spent more than $65 million on wage and benefits, park officials said.

To attract more visitors, the society invested more than $40 million to improve animal habitats in the past five years, officials said in the press release. 

Improvements have included the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness, giraffe habitat, Japanese giant salamander habitat and Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest.

“The substantial economic growth of the Detroit Zoo and its significant impact on the region enhances the reputation of our community, provide jobs to local residents and attracts families and individuals to the region’s other attractions and businesses,” said Larry Alexander, president and CEO of Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

Clark Doman contributed to this article.

Twitter: @Clark_Doman