No lion: We don’t need to move Land Park’s Sacramento Zoo

In Sacramento’s ongoing quest to become World Class ©, certain aspirational leaders want to move the zoo from Land Park to Natomas.

Into, um, Arco Arena. Or Sleep Train. Or whatever they’re calling it now.

The original plan was to renovate the Sacramento Zoo to the tune of $75 million. That’s a lot of giraffe lettuce, but I get it. Then the zoo got a new director, Jason Jacobs, who lamented the public couldn’t see rhinos, elephants, and apes.

Two words: Animal Planet. Channel 282 on your Xfinity cable system.

Without getting into whether or not I like zoos (I am drifting away from thinking they’re OK, and one of my other opinion colleagues looks like he’s going to pass a rhino when the subject comes up), I think this latest scheme is a bad idea.


Putting aside my zoo-as-a-concept feelings, why do we need a new zoo? So the zoo director, who came from Tucson, can have a bigger, cooler zoo? So City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby (of Natomas—surprise!) can do something with the former Home of The Kings/dank cement monolith/Arco-SleepTrain-Other?

Incidentally, the estimated cost of a new zoo is $125 million to $150 million. Of course It will wind up being orders of magnitude more than that (See also: Cost overruns, Golden1 Center).

Jack Ohman

Conveniently, Sacramento voters just passed Measure U, which is just fine, but did they think they were going to be paying for a 180-acre zoo with a “drive-through African safari?” Probably not. They were probably just hoping to keep police and fire protection intact, and maybe they could keep the pools open in the summer. Perhaps some community development in South Sacramento.

At 14 acres, the Sacramento Zoo is indeed Spartan, and there are some animal species it doesn’t have. Parking is an issue, kind of, and yet 500,000 people per year go there whether it’s World Class © or not. It’s still a lovely, fun, family-friendly experience, located in one of the most beautiful city parks in the country. And look! There’s Fairytale Town right across the street!

I doubt Sacramento’s out-of-state visitors really care whether we have a massive new zoo, and if they did, may I direct them to San Diego? They have a zoo you may have heard of.

Some cities that have also aspired to World Classiness, such as Portland and Seattle, are now unnavigable traffic nightmares with unaffordable housing — a state of existence Sacramento doesn’t want or need. It’s getting there though, and fast.

Perhaps this $125 million (and up) in well-meaning civic energy could be diverted into, say, a comprehensive homelessness solution, which is really keeping thousands of people from coming downtown. Besides, a new Sacramento riverfront aquarium is a much more interesting project. We don’t have that.

Growing up in Marquette, Michigan in the 1960s, I recall deer and a bear and the odd infiltrating chipmunk in our zoo. We don’t have to be that small, but what’s the matter with a perfectly fine renovation? We keep the accreditation and the homey feel of Land Park.

Besides, the Kings ain’t turning Arco-Sleep Train-Grant’s Tomb into a zoo. Just ask them. They want to build housing there.

In the words of Paul Simon, “orangutans are skeptical of changes in their cages.” Me too.