The Manhattan City Commission Tuesday unanimously approved about $4.3 million in funding for the construction of the Sunset Zoo’s Expedition Asia exhibit.
Donations will account for about $2.2 million in funding while the remainder will come from excess quality-of-life sales-tax funds that were established in 2006.
While funding for Expedition Asia began in 2015 with a $500,000 donation, fundraising efforts really picked up in 2017 when the city approved the use of the quality-of-life sales-tax funds for the project.
Even with the two funding sources, Sunset Zoo staff still had to find ways to cut project costs, such as altering utility and landscaping plans, in order to stay under budget.
Commissioner Wynn Butler praised the Sunset Zoo’s staff for the work they put into raising the necessary funds for the project.
“This is about as good as it gets, in my mind, from budgeting,” Butler said. “You got great public support in donations, you had a dedicated, citizen-approved sales tax and the money is not going to be diverted from its intended purpose.”
Commissioner Usha Reddi also praised the Sunset Zoo, calling the organization and its staff a “bright spot of our community” amid the challenges of a pandemic.
“It’s people like you and organizations such as yourself which give us pause and to invest in the future,” Reddi said. “And I do think we’re going to make substantial revenue off of this.”
Once completed, Expedition Asia will feature new Malayan tiger, sloth bear and Amur leopard exhibits and ADA-compliant viewing areas.
It will also feature rentable spaces, including an exhibit-viewing deck that has a capacity of over 100 people.
For more information about Expedition Asia, visit sunsetzoo.com.