Attendance at the Kansas City Zoo has topped 1 million for the first time in its 107-year history.
The milestone was reached Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving, when a family from Waterloo, Iowa, came through the gate. They were awarded with a Friends of the Zoo family membership, a gift bag and a personal encounter with the penguins.
“There’s really only a handful of attractions in the Kansas City metro area that draw that kind of record number,” Dean Rodenbough, chairman of the zoo marketing committee, said Wednesday at a board meeting of the Friends of the Zoo. “It’s really quite an accomplishment. I think it elevates the overall stature of the zoo and its reputation.”
Zoo attendance has been rising for several years after the arrival of director Randy Wisthoff from the Omaha, Neb., zoo and voter approval in 2004 of a $30 million bond package that allowed the creation of a polar bear exhibit, among other things.
The zoo logged more than 911,000 visitors in 2015, up from more than 886,000 in 2014. Attendance rose to more than 714,000 visitors in 1998 in the wake of the 1995 opening of the vast new Africa section, but it quickly subsided with a lack of new attractions.
The zoo is lowering its attendance projection for 2017 to 943,500, primarily because there are no major new attractions planned.