Hippos get closer to the voters - Tucson News Now

Hippos get closer to the voters

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    Alexis Balbastro. (Source: Tucson Police Department)Alexis Balbastro. (Source: Tucson Police Department)

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Zoo Lights attracted families to Reid Park for holiday fun Wednesday night as they checked out their favorite animals.

"My first time seeing them tonight, I haven't been in a couple of years and and I enjoyed every time I come here. First time bringing him here," Mickey Rowe said about the lights as he balanced his young son, also named Mickey, on his head.

"Monkeys, because they decorate the cage good," six year-old Maleek Rowe said about his favorite animal at the zoo.

One animal that Reid Park does not have is a hippopotamus. But a poll of county residents showed that many want to change that. A discussion among the Tucson Bond Project Advisory Committee and Reid Park Zoo Wednesday showed that the city will likely recommend that Pima County put hippos in a 2015 bond package to be approved by voters.

"There is some value coming back into the city general fund based on that. Tourist dollars," said committee chair Earl Causbie.

"Hippos are one of those big 'wow' animals. They're one of the largest mammals on the face of the earth, and for the exhibit we have planned, you'll actually be able to go and see them under water like in an aquarium, and it really gives a unique perspective on the lifestyle of a hippo," said zoo administrator Jason Jacobs.

Right now the recommended amount will be $3.7 million, on about a $7.4 million project. Donors would make up the rest. Both figures are in early stages for something that might not be built until 2019, and could add about a buck to admission fees for maintenance.

"We've had several presentations among our members and donors. We've heard nothing but support for this project and excitement," said Reid Park Zoological Society president Nancy Schlegel.

"It shouldn't be too much.  I mean, admissions pretty low right now as it is," Rowe said.

City council must still vote on what recommendations to make to the county, and the county will have the final say on the timing and amount of the bond package to go in front of voters.

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