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Zoo admission price hike OK'd

Willing to part with your smartphone for a few hours? Groundhog Day at the Oklahoma City Zoo may be for you.

While the zoo's general admission prices go up by $1 on Feb. 1, visitors who check their smartphone at the gate on Feb. 2 will get in for half the price of admission

And donation of a used mobile phone for the Gorillas on the Line program — which aims to preserve African wildlife habitat — will be good for free admission that day.

The Oklahoma City Zoo is the most popular cultural attraction in Oklahoma, with more than 1 million visitors each year and annual operating expenses of $18 million.

The zoo remains one of the best deals among its peer institutions nationwide, thanks in part to a voter-approved sales tax that raises about $14 million a year.

From the Atlanta Zoo to Toledo and Birmingham to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, admission prices documented in a 2018 Association of Zoos and Aquariums study listed Oklahoma City 61st, Executive Director Dwight Lawson told the city council Tuesday.

Lawson had figures on admission prices at popular Oklahoma City attractions as well, showing admission is more expensive at Frontier City, the city-owned Riversport Rapids, the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, the Science Museum and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

The council unanimously approved Lawson's request for an increase in the zoo's general admission fee to $12.

Admission for children ages 3 to 11 and seniors 65 and older also goes up $1, to $9. An annual family membership increases from $90 to $120.

Increases are a response to a compensation and classification study, the first in a decade, that added considerably to operating costs, Lawson said.

"Retention in this tight labor market has been a challenge," he said. "It was time to adjust a lot of those pay rates."

According to the zoo's website, mining of a material used in cellphones threatens the habitat of gorillas and other threatened species in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Gorillas on the Line has a goal of collecting mobile phones for recycling, to reduce demand for the material, called coltan.

The Feb. 2 free admission offer in exchange for recycling a mobile phone is a one-day only deal but the zoo will be collecting phones at the entry plaza through April 30.

For the smartphone-free day promotion Feb. 2, phones will be secured by zoo personnel in the guest services office. For more information, go to the zoo website at okczoo.org.

William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›

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