Gulf Shores City Councilman and chairman of the zoo foundation board, Steve Jones, said the board has been exploring relocating the zoo for years, the $1 million grant will be used to secure financing for a 25-acre site just North of the Intercostal Waterway in Gulf Shores.
“We’re excited because as difficult as it’s been, we’re finally going to realize this mission and this dream of actually getting this project started and finished once and for all,” Jones told Lagniappe. “Call it a two-year process but now we’re down to the final 30 days, hopefully getting fully funded and beginning the project and get the project built from start to finish and open it in less than two years.”
The rest of the financing is being made possible by a $26.3 million bond issue. These funds will be used for a refinance on the existing zoo debt, construct the new zoo facility, and buy 71-acres of land next to the new zoo site.
“The bonds are actually going to be sold on the open market,” said Jones. “They have a lot of stipulations, regulations and hoops for us to jump through with regard to what they expect us to do and it’s pretty onerous. There is a private investment company that finds projects like this and decides they are worth investing in. One investment group is purchasing this entire package. All of the revenues that the new project is going to generate are all pledged to the repayment of these bonds.”
Gulf Shores is quickly becoming one of the most economically charged cities in the state. According to AL.com, 25.8 million people visited the gulf coast and spent $13.3 billion last year. The new zoo location will be a great addition to the already growing gulf coast attractions.
The $1 million grant will be presented to the zoo from Gulf Shores when construction is complete in 2020.