Lowry Park Zoo set to reopen under new guidelines

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The popular Tampa Bay family destination spot is set to reopen in one week after the pandemic forced it to shut down for weeks.

Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park Zoo will begin welcoming guests back to the zoo Friday, May 29th. The zoo will operate under the following new guidelines:

  • Limiting the number of Zoo guests to 50% of comfortable capacity; 2500 people are allowed in
  • Six feet or more social distancing will be required and enforced
  • Based on current state guidelines, restricting the Zoo’s limited indoor venues to 50% of capacity, emphasizing outdoor seating, with staff supervision
  • Adding safety and thermal monitoring stations at our single point of entry, hiring on-premise EMTs
  • All ZooTampa employees will be required to wear masks when in the park
  • Guests are strongly encouraged to wear masks, and ZooTampa will provide masks free of charge
  • Enforcing constraints to prevent the congregation of any group of more than 10 people
  • Restricting close contact in the park through clear and enforced physical distancing guidelines
  • Communicating new safety protocols with mandated training for every Zoo employee
  • Zoo School, our on-site Childhood Education Center to follow the Department of Children & Family and Hillsborough County childcare licensing guidelines with an anticipated opening of mid-June
  • Shift the start of Zoo Camp to start the week of June 22

“We’ve taken a lot of different steps and each one of these steps are fluid and we’ll test this out as we move forward,” ZooTampa’s CEO, Joe Couceiro said.

Couceiro told 8 On Your Side that 75 employees remained employed during the shutdown. They took care of the zoo, the animals and finances.

“We maintained all of our veterinary staff on board,” he said. “They, of course, did all of their health checks and took care of any health concerns throughout the time the zoo was closed. From an animal keeper standpoint it’s cleaning, feeding, playing with the animals, it’s enriching the animals. Doing things that get their attention and make their minds work a little bit.”

Couceiro says ZooTampa took a big financial hit over the past two months. The zoo burned through more than $2 million dollars keeping the zoo open with no money coming in.

“ZooTampa is about 93% self funded,” Couceiro said. “We earn those funds through admissions, in-park spending and donations and so forth. Without any of that coming in, except for some very generous donations who helped us out throughout this whole process, we are really struggling. A million dollars a month plus is something we weren’t planning on spending without any revenues coming in, but we’ve managed.”

Couceiro attributes the zoo being in good shape for the reopening to high earning prior to the pandemic.

“We had such a great first part of the year before the closure,” he said. “We were on pace for a record year before we closed, so when we closed we were in pretty good financial shape going in.”

Now the zoo is focused on getting customers back through the door, but safely. Close to 300 employees are coming back to work in waves. They are constantly cleaning and setting up exhibits and areas differently to ensure customer’s safety. For more information on ZooTampa’s new guidelines, click here.

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