County raises zoo admission charges

February 25, 2011
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Kent County commissioners agreed to raise admission fees to John Ball Zoo last week by a 15-2 margin. The additional revenue generated by the higher prices is expected to give the zoo another $200,000 this year.

Starting this spring, adult admission to the zoo will be $8.50. Fees for senior citizens and children will be $7.50 and $6.50, respectively. The increases amount to $1 across the board. A family of four will pay $30, which is up by $4 from last season. Off-season admissions will rise by 50 cents beginning on the first Monday following the Labor Day weekend. The last fee hike went into effect in 2007.

“I don’t like to raise fees, but sometimes you have to,” said Commissioner Tom Antor.

“I think this is a bargain,” added Commissioner Roger Morgan.

Zoo Director Bert Vescolani said 88,000 passes were used last season to enter the facility and the total was up from previous years. “We do offer people a lot of opportunities to come through for reduced fees or for free,” he said. Vescolani indicated the additional dollars would go toward staffing.

Commissioners Candace Chivis and Carol Hennessey voted against the increase. Both represent portions of Grand Rapids.

“When 99.5 percent of the people who come to the zoo say they will come back, that puts us in a good market position,” said Vescolani.

How the new zoo prices will stack up

Advocates of the proposed fee increases for the John Ball Zoo feel the cost of admission to the zoo will still be in line with other local attractions. The proposed hike would raise admission by $1 for adults, children and seniors during the zoo’s busiest months and by 50 cents during the offseason.

Family Attraction









Celebration North Theater









Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park









Gerald R. Ford Museum








Grand Rapids Art Museum





Grand Rapids Children’s Museum





Grand Rapids Public Museum





Attraction Average






Proposed Zoo Fees (summer)






Proposed Zoo Fees (winter)





*A family is defined as two adults and two children.
**Has two prices for children and families based on the age of the children. The price shown is for 5-13-year-olds. Prices are lower for children under 5.

Source: Kent County, February 2011

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