SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between the San Antonio Business Journal and KSAT.
The San Antonio Zoo was already facing financial uncertainty after Covid-19 wiped out much of its peak season, and now the possibility of a second shutdown has driven its leaders into survival mode.
As Texas has experienced a spike in Covid infections and deaths, multiple mayors in the state, including San Antonio's Ron Nirenberg, have raised the possibility of a second shutdown to stem the surge.
“Our best-case scenario after the initial shutdown was to see 50% of our budgeted attendance and revenue for the remainder of the year, and even that put us at a loss of several millions dollars,” San Antonio Zoo CEO Tim Morrow said. “It’s difficult to even think about another shutdown.”
The more than century-old zoo, one of the city’s most popular attractions, was initially forced to close on March 13, following directives from local health and government officials and a declaration from the World Health Organization that the novel coronavirus had become a pandemic. The midtown park finally welcomed back guests on June 19 at limited capacity under Gov. Greg Abbott’s multiphase economic reopening plan.
Currently, Texas zoos can operate at half capacity. The San Antonio Zoo hasn't come near that threshold. In an attempt to generate more business, Morrow and company are relaunching the Drive Thru Zoo promotion, which was inspired by the pandemic and has been popular.
The thought of having to close the San Antonio Zoo again — as California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered, along with other businesses, in response to that state's surge in Covid-19 cases — is unsettling for Morrow.
Currently, Texas zoos can operate at half capacity. The San Antonio Zoo hasn't come near that threshold.