Zoo Knoxville reopens after $400k in historic flood damage, hopes to recoup through ticket sales

Local News

Zoo Knoxville reopened its gates Tuesday, after being closed for 10 days (Feb. 23 – March 4) due to historic flooding across the state of Tennessee. 

Flooding occurred in a service area where the zoo’s main transformer and pumping station are located at one point hidden by around six-feet of water. No animals or public areas were flooded.

Since the power to the transformer had to be cut, generators were brought in to bring power to animal areas exhibits.

The lower parking lot in Chilhowee Park remains underwater, the zoo has put in place as an alternative parking plan to accommodate guests. 

“As a nonprofit, this has been a significant financial hit, although we are fortunate it occurred when it did and not during our peak season for guests,” said spokesperson Tina Rolen. 

Costs of the flooding and resulting closure are estimated to fall between $350-$400k and inlcude:   

  • Loss of operational income over the 10 days – approximately $7,000 – $10,000 per day
  • Rental of generators for daily operations – $21,000 per week
  • Fuel costs related to generators – $8,000 per week
  • Purchase of a new transformer and installation – $50,000
  • Rental of a diesel pump for sewer station until the electrical can be rebuilt – $8,000 per month
  • Labor costs and any preventative measures to prevent future impact from severe flooding will also have to be factored in.

Our community has been asking how they can help us recover, and the best way to do that right now is to come visit the zoo with a one-day ticket or to purchase an annual pass. 

One hundred percent of the money ticket sales generate go back to support Zoo Knoxville’s mission to save animals from extinction.

The zoo is reminding visitors any donation made (which are tax-deductible) help to offset the costs of flooding repairs.

The zoo had some big flooding issues following the historic rainfall in late February, forcing it to close for several days for repairs and maintenance. 

Zoo Knoxville’s new weekend operating hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

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