Albuquerque Zoo ticket prices to remain flat despite Penguin Chill costs

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The zoo’s new Penguin Chill exhibit is drawing large crowds and it also comes with new operational costs the city of Albuquerque will have to pay for.

The city estimates the long-awaited $19-million-dollar attraction will cost around $300,000 dollars each year to keep open. With the increased operational costs, KRQE News 13 asked city leaders if they were considering raising zoo ticket prices soon.

The city’s Cultural Services Department Director, Dr. Shelle Sanchez, says the city evaluates ticket costs each year, usually around March when the budgeting process takes place. “Right now, it’s definitely a great deal,” said Dr. Sanchez in a recent interview with KRQE News 13.

Albuquerque’s zoo admission price is among the lowest in the region for New Mexico residents.

Since late-2012, the zoo’s admission prices have gone up twice. In November 2012, the city raised adult ticket prices from $7 dollars to $9 dollars per person. In 2017, that price went up by another $1 dollar per adult. Today, the city charges $10 per adult and $5 per kid (with New Mexico residency) to get into the zoo.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs charges nearly $25 dollars per adult and nearly $20 dollars per kid during peak summer days. The Pueblo Zoo in Colorado costs $12 dollars for adults and $10 dollars for kids. El Paso’s Zoo charges $12 dollars per adult and $7.50 per kid.

While the Albuquerque Zoo has some of the cheapest tickets in the region and expects the penguin exhibit is to draw an attendance boost, the city says it’s not looking at raising ticket prices right now. “There hasn’t been a discussion of its time to raise prices, but you know, every year that’s definitely going to be on the table,” said Dr. Sanchez.

Sanchez says while ticket fees are a key revenue generator, they’re not the only source of funds for the zoo.

“I think the thing that people don’t realize is there are several sources of revenue and funds coming in for the BioPark,” Sanchez said. ” Ticket admissions are definitely important, but we also have concession sales, we also have funding from our BioPark Society, there are rental events, there’s just a lot of ways that money comes in a public facility.”

Any ticket price hike would have to be approved by Albuquerque City Council.

Longtime Albuquerque City Councilor Ken Sanchez voted against zoo ticket price hikes in 2012. He says he’s cautious about any future ones. “Again, I think the key is the affordability,” said Councilor Sanchez. “I’m proud to say that we are low and we can still make it affordable for families.”

The $300,000 annual operations price tag for the new Penguin Chill exhibit covers costs including water filtration, temperature cooling, food, supplies, animal-keepers salaries and more.

The city says it does have more cash to spend on operations today, as much of the zoo’s large building and maintenance projects are now being paid for with the 1/8-cent gross receipts tax increase voters passed a few years ago.

The zoo is also helping offset the increased costs of the Penguin Chill with the new solar panels being built in the parking lot. The panels are estimated to save the city $100,000 dollars in annual electricity costs.

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