A New Zoo

On September 23, 2021, the City of Elk Grove and the Sacramento Zoological Society announced they would spend the next six months exploring the feasibility of relocating and expanding the zoo in Elk Grove. Under the terms of an Exclusive Agreement, both organizations have committed to negotiating an agreement that could provide for construction of a new zoo on undeveloped land in south Elk Grove.

City Council Meeting - March 23, 2022

The results of the Feasibility Study and Economic Impact Analysis will be shared with the City Council at their meeting on March 23, 2022.  The public is invited to attend the Council meeting and provide feedback.  If the Council desires, the next phase of the effort would be preparation of a formal site master plan and financing plan, which would involve additional public engagement. 

Feasibility Study and Town Hall

On March 10, 2022, the City and the Zoological Society released the draft Feasibility Study and Economic Impact Analysis.  These reports are available for review and comment.  Please submit comments using the email form at the bottom of this page.  A public town hall was held concurrently with the release, providing an overview of these materials and an opportunity to ask questions of the project team.  The recording of this meeting is below.

Location

If discussions are successful and an agreement is reached, the new zoo could be located in the Kammerer Urban Design Study Area, part of the city’s Southeast Policy Area. The site is an approximately 60-acre northern portion of a 98-acre parcel located at the northwest intersection of Kammerer Road and Lotz Parkway. The site’s current zoning allows for a zoological park with approval by the city of a use permit. 

Zoo Location Map

Other Documents


Frequently Asked Questions

What is happening with the City of Elk Grove and the Sacramento Zoo?
The City of Elk Grove and the Sacramento Zoological Society agreed to begin studying and analyzing the feasibility of relocating the Sacramento Zoo to Elk Grove, where the zoo could significantly expand to benefit the care of the animals and improve the guest experience. The new zoo would be approximately 60 acres and would likely be built in three phases over several years. The shared goal is to build a world-class zoo and cultural attraction for the entire region.
What is the agreement with the City of Elk Grove and the Zoo?
The Sacramento Zoological Society’s agreement with the City of Elk Grove, called an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement, memorializes our commitment to explore whether there is the potential for a relocated and expanded zoo within the City of Elk Grove. The agreement was signed on September 23, 2021. Over the past six months, both the Society and the City of Elk Grove have been evaluating the feasibility of the project and may ultimately enter into a binding agreement to relocate the zoo to Elk Grove.
What is a feasibility study?
A feasibility study is a written report that tells the reader whether or not a proposed project is feasible from a physical, operational, and financial perspective. In the broadest sense, it outlines the potential viability of a project.
What does the Zoo Feasibility Study include?
The Zoo Feasibility Study includes four main components:
  1. Vision for the project – This includes the overall goals for the project (e.g., animal health, safety, and comfort, education and conservation, connection with the community) and the objectives for the visitor experience.
  2. Concept program and plan – This will start with a list of the species, habitats, facilities, and other site programing that will make up the project.  Species selection will consider our local climate conditions and habitat size will align with the standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (the accreditation organization for zoos in North America).  Using this information, a design team will then create a “bubble diagram” illustrating how the program and plan could be organized across the project site.  The diagram will illustrate everything from visitor parking and entry, to habitat areas, dining facilities, and support facilities including administration offices, vet clinics, and animal holding areas.  The program and plan will also illustrate the potential phasing of project construction.
  3. ROM Budget – A ROM Budget, or Rough Order of Magnitude Budget, provides a high-level analysis of the potential costs to construct the project.  The budget is based upon the concept program and plan and is informed by the construction costs of recent projects at other zoo facilities in North America.  This will not be a line-item budget with extensive detail.  Rather, costs will likely be described as $/acre or $/square foot and will include substantial contingencies.
  4. Strategic Business Plan – Based upon the concept program and plan and budget, the study will develop a high-level financial plan to fund construction of the zoo, and a high-level business plan to fund startup and long-term operation of the zoo.  The business plan will include an evaluation of both potential sources of revenue for construction (e.g., cash, private donors, and city financing) and operation (e.g., ticket sales, concession and store sales, and parking revenue).
Who prepared the Zoo Feasibility Study?
The feasibility study was prepared by RS&S (Relevant Strategies and Solutions), a leader in zoo facility planning, under contract to the Sacramento Zoological Society. The City, along with its own team of financial and zoological consultants, have reviewed the plan. View the feasibility study.
When with the Zoo Feasibility Study be completed?
The feasibility study was released for public review and comment on March 10, 2022 following a Town Hall meeting.
What was the City doing while the Feasibility Study was being prepared?

City staff met with the Sacramento Zoological Society and RS&S on a regular basis to provide input into the study’s preparation. City staff also researched zoos and zoo design, construction, and operations best practices as well as best practices for how cities partner with zoo operators like the Sacramento Zoological Society.  Field visits to two zoos (Fresno and Houston) occurred in fall 2021.  The City retained its own zoo expert to help review the feasibility study and advise the City throughout the life of the project on all aspects of project planning, design, construction, financing, and partnership.

The City continues to define the infrastructure needs for the zoo, including water, sewer, drainage, and roadway/transportation needs near the zoo property so that these improvements can be designed and constructed to best serve the future zoo and surrounding areas.

What happens after the Feasibility Study?

The completed feasibility study was presented to the public at a town hall on March 10, 2022. Staff will present the findings to the City Council on March 23, 2022.

If the Council supports the findings of the study and desires to move forward with the project, the City and Sacramento Zoological Society would negotiate a Management and Operating Agreement, or MOA. The MOA will define the roles and responsibilities of the City and SZS relative to property acquisition, construction of the zoo and supporting utilities, and operation of the facility. Development of the MOA would occur over the summer of 2022 and likely considered by the City Council in the fall.

Where would the Zoo be located?
 The project could be located on approximately 60 acres of property in south Elk Grove at the northwest intersection of Kammerer Road and Lotz Parkway. As of 2014, the property is zoned a combination of light industrial and office, and a zoo is allowed in those zones with a conditional use permit. The tentative plan is the zoo would be located there, pending the results of the feasibility analysis.
What are the primary reasons the Zoo is looking to relocate?

The current zoo is 94 years old and requires extensive renovations to both the habitats and its other facilities to even meet current - let alone future - animal care standards.  At 14.7 acres, the zoo’s current footprint is landlocked and unable to provide the necessary space for many of its beloved residents, including giraffes, big cats, and apes. Over the past 30 years, the zoo has lost many of its iconic animal species due to space constraints, including tiger, hippopotamus, and bear. This decline will continue if the zoo stays where it is.  The lack of a visitor parking lot at the zoo’s current location also presents an insurmountable obstacle to both expanding access to the zoo and increasing attendance.

The Sacramento Zoological Society’s Board of Trustees is responsible for the care and welfare of the zoo’s animals. Given the challenges that many species face in the wild, zoos have been called upon to take a significant leadership role in saving species from extinction.  The current zoo site undermines the Zoo’s ability to meet this important mission.  The Board of Trustees also has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the long-term viability of the zoo and ensure that future generations can enjoy this valued regional amenity.

A new zoo will allow their wildlife care professionals to create expansive natural habitats, bolster conservation programs, and allow the zoo to better serve its educational mission by accommodating more than twice the number of guests per year.

What about the City of Sacramento relocation study?
In May of 2019, the City of Sacramento pursued a feasibility study to examine three potential sites - North Natomas Regional Park, Sleep Train Arena, and Bing Maloney Golf Course. It was recently communicated to the Sacramento Zoological Society that none of these sites are viable options for relocation.
Why is Elk Grove the right place for the new zoo?
Elk Grove is well positioned to provide the physical space and financial support needed to build a new, modern zoological park. Building the zoo in Elk Grove will enable the zoo to remain in, and serve, the Sacramento Region while having the space needed to triple in size and double in visitation. The Society and the City have a shared vision for what the new zoo can be and the impact it can have on the region and the community. They also share values supporting science education, habitat and wildlife conservation, and providing the public parks and recreation spaces. The new zoo will be an important economic development driver and cultural destination and attraction for Elk Grove. The zoo could provide one million annual visitors and as many as 250 jobs and be an anchor in the continued development of the south part of the City.
How will relocation affect zoo attendance and operations?
The Sacramento Zoo is already a regional destination attracting half a million guests from Northern California and Western Nevada.  Wherever the zoo is located, it will create memorable wildlife, educational, and family-friendly experiences for our community.
How long has the City and Society been discussing this agreement?
Talks between the City and Society started in late June 2021. Those evolved to approval of the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement and public announcement on September 23, 2021.
Will the city have to help pay for the new zoo?
Funding of a new zoo is expected to be a partnership. Both groups will take the next six months to create a budget. As part of that partnership, the City has secured an option to purchase the property being considered for the zoo. The cost for that land is estimated between $6.6 and $6.9 Million. The City has committed in principle to provide the land at the City’s costs. It is likely that additional City funding for construction and operation of the zoo will be necessary.
Does the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement mean the zoo cannot negotiate with any other city during the period of the agreement?
Yes. Both organizations have entered into an agreement to work exclusively with each other to plan for the zoo’s relocation to Elk Grove. The agreement states that the zoo can’t work with any other cities in Sacramento, San Joaquin, Yolo, El Dorado, or Placer counties through March 31, 2022, or longer if the agreement were to be extended, and the City can’t work with any other zoo operators during that time.
What happens next?

The city and the Society will study the potential site and develop preliminary plans and a budget for the project. If successful, at the end of the study period the city and the Society will enter into an agreement whereby they will partner to construct the new zoo. At that time, the Society will make an application to the City for its project approvals, which would include public outreach and appropriate environmental review.

The city and zoo plan to host public events so that community members can learn more about the project and provide input. The exclusive negotiating agreement lasts for six months, but it can be extended.

How can I weigh in?
The City and Zoological Society are committed to public transparency and plan to provide the public regular updates throughout the process. There will be multiple opportunities for residents, donors, members, and visitors to comment about the project, and more details of those opportunities will be forthcoming as the project progresses. If you have questions or comments in the meantime, e-mail the City at [email protected].

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If you have questions, please contact:

Project Contact:

Darrell Doan
Economic Development Director, City of Elk Grove
Phone: (916) 627-3338
Email: [email protected]

Media Contact:

Kristyn Laurence
Public Affairs, City of Elk Grove
Phone: (916) 478-2206
Email: [email protected]

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