Zoo-Museum District
5:54 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

ZMD Board Member Wants Discounts For City, County Residents At Zoo, Other Institutions

If you live in St. Louis or St. Louis County, you may eventually be able to get discounts at local cultural institutions. That idea was floated Thursday by Zoo-Museum District board member Gloria Wessels.

Gloria Wessels

City and county residents pay taxes that fund the five institutions of the district: the St. Louis Art Museum, Science Center, St. Louis Zoo, Missouri History Museum and Missouri Botanical Garden. Wessels told St. Louis Public Radio that it’s only fair that taxpayers get something for their money that visitors from other counties don’t.

“Some tickets to the IMAX or free entrance to some of the exhibits, and in the case of the Zoo, maybe some free parking passes, some free train rides,” Wessels said. “I just think it would show some appreciation to the city and county taxpayers.”

At a budget-presentation meeting at the Zoo Thursday, Zoo president Jeffrey Bonner told Wessels, “We will test that.” Bonner later said, through a spokesperson, that he meant, “The Zoo will evaluate the feasibility of what we can offer to taxpayers and consider what that offer might be.”   

Residents would have to show a personal property tax receipt to get a discount, under Wessels’ plan. Institutions, including the History Museum, already offer city and county residents free admission to paid exhibitions during certain hours.

‘Residents of St. Louis are paying the tab’

In 2013, more than half the Zoo’s visitors came from outside St. Louis city and county, according to Zoo surveys. Board member Charles Valier also wants the ZMD to take a harder look at figures that show nonresidents’ use of the institutions.

“Here they come for free and the residents of St. Louis are paying the tab,” Valier said.

Offering discounts is only one proposed solution to varying admissions policies.

Out of all the ZMD institutions, only the botanical garden charges an entrance fee to all visitors (except on certain days at specific times). Valier proposed that the garden adopt a blanket no-admissions-charge policy for people from the city and county at all times.

“Why is it fair to charge taxpaying residents of the city and county for privileges that all the other four institutions offer for free?” Valier asked.

ZMD board members plan to take up these issues again for further discussion when they reconvene in September.

Thursday's ZMD Board meeting at the Zoo. Far left: Gloria Wessels and Charles Valier

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL