Construction of the Asia exhibit at the Oklahoma City Zoo will be put on hold, though the elephant portion will go ahead as planned, the zoo trust decided at a special meeting Tuesday.
The trust voted unanimously to build the elephant area and put a rhino exhibit and multispecies habitat on hold. The elephant area will cost about $12.6 million. The zoo budgeted about $20 million for construction of Expedition Asia, but that isn’t enough to complete all three major portions of the exhibit, Executive Director Dwight Scott said. The construction bids for the entire project ranged from $28.3 million to $34.6 million. City sales tax revenues are slowing, so the zoo is receiving a smaller amount of money through its one-eighth-cent dedicated sales tax. Trust members decided to pare down the project to only the elephant area for now. "It’s certainly the fiscally responsible thing to do,” trust Chairman Dick Beshear said. Lippert Bros. Inc., was awarded the contract with a low bid of $11.75 million for the elephant exhibit and $908,000 for an elephant demonstration building. The area will encompass about 61/2 acres. The elephant area will be the most expensive project in the history of the zoo. Long-term goals are to develop a herd of several females, offspring and one or two males. Construction estimates can vary greatly on zoo exhibits, said Tommy Bryant, the zoo buildings and grounds director. Contractors have to hire many specialty subcontractors for work such as mesh, rock formations and other features.