ZooTampa at Lowry Park will officially open to the public Friday, May 29, a couple days earlier than its originally announced June 1 date. And starting next week, it will hold several “community days” for seniors, medical workers and the zoo’s donors and passholders.
Like other attractions around Tampa Bay that have been reopening recently, the zoo will have modified operations based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An official announcement said the zoo’s new protocols will be “limiting not just who and how many guests may visit, but the manner in which they enter, traverse our paths and enjoy animal interactions.”
Joe Couceiro, president and CEO of ZooTampa, said the original June 1 reopening date took into account an estimate of how long it would take to bring back furloughed employees and get them trained on the new safety guidelines.
“We also had to make physical changes to the zoo including installing thermal imaging cameras, social distancing markers and the additional hand washing and sanitizing stations,” he said. “Our dedicated team has worked tirelessly and we are excited ... about the future and the important role we play in the resumption of leisure activities in Tampa Bay."
The zoo will hold several “community days” next week, starting with a senior day May 26 in which it will be open exclusively for people 65 and older. That Tuesday afternoon will then be set aside for the zoo’s donors. On May 27, frontline medical workers and their families will get a day at the zoo; May 28 will be open for its annual pass members.
On May 29, the zoo will be open to the public for the first time in two months.
An online reservation system, which will be live starting this May 24 at zootampa.org, and all visitors, including members will have to make a reservation. But it is not requiring guests to pick a time to visit, as some attractions have required. Walk-up admission will be available, a zoo spokeswoman said, but will be first come, first served, depending on attendance numbers.
The new operations include:
- Limiting the number of zoo guests to 50 percent of capacity.
- Six feet or more social distancing will be required and enforced.
- Enforcing constraints to prevent the congregation of any group more than 10 people.
- Restricting the zoo’s limited indoor venues to 50 percent of capacity.
- Adding safety and thermal monitoring stations at the attraction’s single point of entry, and hiring on-premise EMTs.
- Requiring all guest-facing employees to wear masks and PPE.
- Strongly recommending guests wear masks, and offering disposable masks free of charge.
The zoo opened in 1957 and cares for more than 1,100 animals at 1101 W Sligh Ave. in Tampa. Admission is $39.95; $29.95 for ages 3-11. There is also a “pay for a day” deal that gets you unlimited admission for the rest of 2020 with a single day’s admission.
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